Due to a Steeler's bye week, I actually got to watch a Bengals game--for the second week in a row. Unfortunately, living in Pittsburgh, that is rarity. What is even more rare is to be surrounded by people who are rooting for the Bengals. That was the scene for me yesterday. Steeler Nation, for their own reasons, were pulling for the Bengals and suffered a similar, although not nearly has heartrending, disappointment at the failed comeback. However, it was interesting. Typically, being the lone Bengals fan in a sea of black and gold, I draw a lot of curious stares, puzzlement, and derision. However, after two consecutive weeks of watching the Bengals, the "vibe" in Steeler nation, at least my little corner of it, seemed to change. I heard comments like "That Andy Dalton's really good," "You guys are going to be scary good in a couple years," and even one comment "The Steelers may make the Super Bowl this year, but after that, they are in trouble" (referencing the rise of the Bengals). Of course, I still get the stock "It's the Bengals, you'll find a way to screw it up"--but less often.
Although statistically gaudy, this wasn't Andy Dalton's best game by a long shot. He looked more like a rookie than he had in several weeks, but even with that the Bengals hung on like tigers to one of the best teams in the AFC, on their turf. Were there lot's of mistakes? Hell yeah. Dalton made some really poor throws, receivers seemed to be unable to catch balls that hit them in the hands, our secondary isn't very good without Leon Hall, and our offensive line totally collapsed when we needed them most. Even with the miscues, the Bengals statistically dominated the game, but we failed to make the big plays when we had to.
Nevertheless, the Bengals are very close to being a very good team. I don't know whether we will make the playoffs or not. We still are very much in it, but we need to win more than we lose from here on out--10-6 may do it, but 9-7 won't. I'll be thrilled if they do, but I can't say I'll be too disappointed if the don't, considering I figured we'd be lucky to win 4 games.
Although it's fun to speculate about next year's draft, even at this early date, what is exciting to me is that we don't have any major holes which can't easily be filled either through the draft or free agency. We are close, very close.