CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 13: Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis listens to Chris Crocker #42 as he waits to talk to an official during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium on November 13, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Steelers won 24-17. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
+ Cincinnati's 24-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers could be viewed one of two ways. The pessimists will clearly denounce Cincinnati's six wins through eight games due to the schedule the team was given whereas the optimists will say that the Bengals are good enough to compete against the league's better teams. Sports Illustrated's Don Banks favors the latter, but pointing that while Cincinnati can compete, they couldn't beat the better team on Sunday:
It was, of course, a statement game for Cincinnati, and the statement made was that the Bengals are good enough to compete with the Steelers, but not good enough to beat them. Cincy's AFC-high five-game winning streak is over and now the Bengals face the prospect of a two-game losing streak if they can't go into Baltimore next week and pull the upset.
+ Even Cincinnati's own Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer, routinely one of the harshest local critics, believes that this young Bengals team is close:
On a day the Bengals hoped to take off the training wheels and ride bikes with the big boys, they swerved ever so slightly. Pittsburgh scored two first-quarter touchdowns and made two fourth-quarter interceptions, mainly by memory. It's what the Steelers do and who they are. But the Bengals are learning.
What's next for them is to get back up on the bike and try again, next Sunday in Baltimore. The baptismal fire is a little late arriving this fall, but the game's on now. And soon enough, the Bengals will figure it out.
+ Paul Dehner Jr. of CBSSports.com believes much like we do in that the Bengals loss on Sunday, if anything, strengthened their argument that they're a good football team capable of competing against the better teams in the NFL.
This would be the point where most Bengals teams take their beating and fade into the Steelers' sprawling shadow, disappearing into NFL mediocrity. Cincinnati didn't.
Despite missed opportunities, injuries and the history of failure, there were the Bengals, twice marching into Pittsburgh territory to tie the game in the final quarter.
The Bengals lost Sunday, but they weren't outclassed. Not in the least.
+ Even Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports writes that Bengals were winners, despite a seven-point loss on Sunday:
OK, Cincinnati Bengals fans, even after the 24-17 loss, you can officially feel great about what you have in quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green. Not that things weren’t looking excellent before this, but Dalton and Green had yet to go up against a team of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ caliber (San Francisco is good, but it’s not the Steelers). Anyway, Dalton was a somewhat pedestrian 15-of-30 for 170 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Likewise, Green was held to one catch for 36 yards (that catch going for a very impressive touchdown over the combination of safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark). However, Green was held in check mostly by a bruised knee he suffered while landing after the aforementioned catch.
While neither player was truly special, they also weren’t overwhelmed by the moment. Coming into this game, the Steelers had been 12-1 against rookie quarterbacks, often making the youngsters look like they should be back in high school. Dalton didn’t shrink in this game. He made a couple of mistakes, but the type of throws which can easily be corrected. Moreover, he and Green came up big on their touchdown play and Dalton’s short touchdown throw to tight end Jermaine Gresham(notes) in the second half was a terrific play as Dalton held up against a furious pass rush from James Harrison(notes). It wasn’t a win, but it was the kind of performance a young quarterback and star receiver can build on.
+ On the other hand Cole was much more antagonistic against safety Reggie Nelson:
The fact that Cincinnati safety Reggie Nelson continues to miss the point in pass coverage. Nelson had a nice hit on Pittsburgh tight end Heath Miller after Miller caught an 18-yard pass over the middle. The problem is that Nelson was late reacting, allowing the catch in the first place. That allowed the Steelers to convert on third-and-10 and score a touchdown on the next play instead of settling for a field goal if Nelson had broken up the pass.
+ Judy Battista of the New York Times writes:
For the Bengals, all was not lost. This game was, as much as anything, a barometer of their progress and a litmus test for a rookie quarterback to face a defense that has confused those with far more experience. With a series of division games still to come — after the Ravens, they face Cleveland and Steelers again — the Bengals remain very much in the playoff race.