Five Reasons The Bengals Lost To Pittsburgh (And Only One Is About Carson Palmer)

#5 Cedric Benson Disappeared / Bernard Scott Under-utilized

There are several schools of opinion on Cedric Benson. Some hate the guy more than Commies who club baby seals and eat puppies. Others are indifferent. And others believe his success is the main reason the team succeed last year. Either way, Benson ran the football only eight times against the Steelers, which is the lowest since rushing only four times against the New York Jets in 2008. While he did only run the football seven times against the Steelers on November 15, 2009, that was the result of injury, not performance.

Either way, when Benson runs the football less than 20 times in a game, the Bengals are 3-17.

Still, the Bengals completely abandoned the running game against Pittsburgh. You could argue that they just didn't have any time, only possessing the football for just under two minutes in the third quarter. But the Bengals threw the football three times in their lone third quarter possession, with a five-yard pass on third-and-15 that was clearly not aimed at picking up a first down.

After running the football seven times in the first half, Benson had one rush attempt in the second half and that came with 10:59 left in the fourth quarter. Bernard Scott had back-to-back runs for 15 yards total during the team's third possession, in which he gave Benson a breather with four runs on the drive. Rather than rotating him later in the game, the coaching staff decided to end Scott's afternoon on offense for a less effective Benson.

Even when we're considering that during the team's lone touchdown drive, Benson still ran the football four times. Hint?

#4 Bengals Offense Completely Shuts Down

After the offense received the kickoff, the Bengals went eight plays for 45 yards, capped by an Andrew Whitworth touchdown reception -- writing that is still awesome. On the following two drives, the Bengals still pushed the football picking up four first downs on 15 plays and 71 total yards.

After that, crickets.

From 5:24 left in the second quarter until there was 5:34 left in the fourth quarter, the Bengals offense ran 15 plays, picked up 16 yards, only one first down, forced two interceptions returned for touchdown and four punts.

One reasonable explanation for the team's complete shutdown...

#3 Quarterback Sacks Stall Bengals Drives

Quarterback sacks are big motivation plays, charging up not only the defense, but the entire fanbase watching the game -- and if you're playing at home, this could cause serious havoc. With 11:20 left in the second quarter, LaMarr Woodley sacked Palmer on the Steelers 27-yard line. This brought about the following event:

Bob Bratkowski puts hand in hat and pulls out Running Back Screen to the Left. "Humm", the offensive coordinator thinks. "This could be interesting." Benson catches the screen pass and Lawrence Timmons enjoyed the fans, media and blockers watching him take a bee-line directly at Benson for a three-yard loss. Bengals screen passes have a level of predictability; they usually happen on long third downs, after a quarterback sack or a holding call. They are rarely called "on schedule". Not only did the sack, and lost yards on the screen, force the Bengals not to get a first down, they were knocked out of field goal position and forced to punt.

William Gay recorded the Steelers second quarterback sack with 2:47 in the second quarter on third-and-nine on the Bengals 41-yard line. The Bengals punt and the Steelers record a field goal during the two-minute offense to end the first half.

With 10:40 left in the third quarter, Woodley recorded his second quarterback sack of the afternoon on second-and-15 forcing the Bengals to convert a third-and-22 on their own 14-yard line. We can't remember exactly, but we're pretty sure that the Bengals called a tight end screen over the middle to Jermaine Gresham. Either way. Predictability. Incomplete. Punt. Steelers convert a field goal on the ensuing drive.

#2 Steelers Dominate Time Of Possession In The Third Quarter

The Steelers received the opening kickoff in the second half and the offense ran a 10-play, 54-yard drive that resulted in a field goal. The Bengals went three-and-out. The Steelers followed that up with a 15-play, 80-yard drive that actually stalled out with 12:34 left in the fourth quarter after back-to-back sacks by Pat Sims and Dhani Jones. On the very next play, Palmer threw a touchdown pass to LaMarr Woodley that gave the Steelers a 13-point lead.

This was essentially where the game went from "alright, the Bengals could make it" to "I actually believed that the Bengals could make it."

After the Bengals punted on the following possession, the Steelers went on a 45-yard drive that consumed another four minutes in the fourth quarter that resulted in a field goal and a 16-point lead with over five minutes left in the game.

Cincinnati essentially had three meaningful offensive possessions in the second half when they could have joined the land of actually losing with some competitiveness. But they only had the football for 1:45 in the third quarter. When time is this precious, whatever you do, don't turn the football over. And if you do turn the football over, don't allow them to easily score.

#1 Palmer Throws A Pick-Six To LaMarr Woodley

With 12:27 left in the fourth quarter, Carson Palmer drops back and tries to hit Chad Ochocinco on a quick out. LaMarr Woodley, lined up at outside linebacker, drifts back and eyes Palmer's tendencies -- aka, if Palmer looks to the right, then he's throwing to the right. Palmer admits he never saw Woodley, who picked off the pass at the Bengals 14-yard line and returned it for a touchdown.

Woodley's pick-six is the second of two by Palmer on Sunday. Troy Polamalu's happened much earlier in the game, but it only tied the game. Woodley's interception gave the Steelers a 13-point lead, the game and a boot in our 11-loss behinds.

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