PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 04: A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals tries to catch a second quarter pass next to Ike Taylor #24 of the Pittsburgh Steelers but ends up drifting out of bounds at Heinz Field on December 4, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Where to begin with this one....
This was by far the ugliest game that the Bengals have played all season. Even their losses to the Broncos and the 49ers didn't look as bad as their loss to the Steelers on Sunday. They couldn't do anything right and there wasn't on player that played mistake three.
The Bengals aren't out of the playoffs because of this loss, though. In fact, they're still holding on to the sixth seed, but they're holding on to it by a thread.
Here are the seven things that come to mind after having a day to digest the Bengals' loss to the Steelers.
|Point 1: A.J. Green has got to cut back on the penalties|
Bengals first-round pick A.J. Green has been nothing short of amazing this season and there is a better than good chance that he'll break franchise rookie receiving records by the end of the year. However, he has got to stop with the penalties. Green's false start penalty erased the Bengals' opening drive touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham and, after another penalty not committed by Green, the Bengals lost all momentum and never got it back. That was his ninth penalty on the year. He's only had three penalty-free games.
|Point 2: Too early to talk about the draft, but.....|
Is there really any question that both of the Bengals first round draft picks could (and maybe should) be used to find new players in the Bengals secondary. A new cornerback and a new safety could really transform this defense from good to elite and it would really put my mind at ease.
I know that there are other needs (interior O-line, RB, etc.) but the secondary is desperate right now.
|Point 3: Jerome Simpson, where did you go?|
Jerome Simpson deserves the "best disappearing act award" on this team. Somehow, Green managed to catch six passes for 87 yards and a touchdown and finished the season with over 100 total yards and he was seeing quite a lot of double coverage. When he was in double coverage, the coverage on Jerome Simpson was more relaxed and he finished the game without a single catch. He was targeted by Andy Dalton twice.
Should the Bengals re-sign a guy who is good one week and then doesn't even show up the next? Do they really want that guy to be their No. 2 receiver?
|Point 4: Same goes for Andre Caldwell|
If you read point three, apply everything that I said to Andre Caldwell as well. Like Simpson, Caldwell didn't catch a single pass.
David Copperfield probably couldn't have done a better job at disappearing on Sunday.
|Point 5: Injuries certainly didn't help|
The absence of Carlos Dunlap and Nate Clements didn't help the Bengals on Sunday. I'm not blaming injured players but the Bengals need to get both Clements and Dunlap back on the field, especially Clements. Adam Jones looked good at times while starting at cornerback but Kelly Jennings didn't and even though the Bengals will miss Leon Hall from here on out, a duo of Jones and Clements could be good enough to get the Bengals into the post season.
Get healthy, guys.
|Point 6: The pressure is really there now|
If the Bengals don't win each of their next three games, they'll probably be in a position in which they will need to beat the Ravens, the best team left on their schedule, to get the 10-6 record that will get them into the playoffs. A 9-7 record likely won't get it done and I'd rather not go into Week 17 needing a win against Baltimore. The next three games are all winnable but that doesn't mean they're easy wins.
There was pressure to beat the Steelers in Week 13 but now the pressure to win will be enormous. Hopefully the Bengals won't crack.
|Extra Point: That was the team we expected to see this season|
The team that lost to the Steelers was the team we expected to see way back when we were predicting the Bengals to go 5-11 or 4-12 in the preseason. That team cannot show up again if the Bengals plan to play football in late January.
Even if the Bengals are unable to make it to the playoffs, though, this season has been an incredible ride and Andy Dalton and Co. have far exceeded any of our expectations. In the end, this was one very ugly loss but it can't erase what the Bengals have done so far this season or what they're still capable of doing.