The blame game is an easy one to play, especially in the wake of such an epic and soul-crushing loss. The truth is that sometimes tossing blame around is actually cathartic and serves as a band-aid over the wound that was created at Heinz Field on Sunday night.
Before we roll out the nominees for this dubious distinction, I want to point out that I intentionally left Bengals punter Kevin Huber off of this list. Though he had a major gaffe in the first quarter when he mishandled the punt, I can't bring myself to put a guy who cracked his jaw, cracked a vertebrae and likely lost some teeth in the game.
Reggie Nelson, Safety: Aside from being picked apart by Ben Roethlisberger's hurry-up and dink-and-dunk offense, Nelson also had a big penalty when the team was down big. Trailing by 20 points, Nelson was flagged for a personal foul taunting penalty after making a tackle. Though I personally didn't see much to warrant the penalty, the flag was thrown nonetheless and spurred a couple of sarcastic, "typical Bengals" type of remarks by Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels. It also led to some Steelers points.
Clark Harris, Long Snapper: Though Huber was partially to blame, Harris' first snap on a punt in the early stages set the tone for the entire game. He has had an impeccable track record since joining the Bengals, but his first bad snap couldn't have come at a worse time. Harris' snap sailed to Huber's left and he fumbled it around. Instead of getting a safety on the play, the ball was placed at the one-yard line and led to a Steelers touchdown. It put Cincinnati in an early hole in which they could never recover.
Chris Crocker, Safety: There isn't one huge play that stands out with Crocker, but rather a handful of missed tackles to his credit. Though Crocker has stepped in and played relatively well this season, Big Ben's use of screens and other short passes picked apart the Bengals' secondary where Crocker was a main culprit.
Dre Kirkpatrick, Cornerback: Talk about being thrown to the wolves. Kirkpatrick's first NFL start came against the Steelers in Pittsburgh and it was a rough start. On the first offensive play of the game, Kirkpatrick was flagged for a face mask penalty, then was seen missing a tackle later in the drive. He played better later on as the Bengals mounted a bit of a comeback, but the confidence level in Kirkpatrick going forward is a bit up in the air.
Jermaine Gresham, Tight End: Aside from having a subpar evening in the stat column once again, Gresham's slippery hands plagued the Bengals once again. Trying to get something going on their first possession of the second half, Gresham fought for extra yards on a catch, but had the ball get pried loose by none other than Troy Polamalu. He was still a yard short of the first down, but it was possible that the Bengals would have gone for it and maybe sustained the drive and got points. Gresham finished with a pedestrian three catches for 23 yards on five targets.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: Those screaming for more Giovani Bernard received more fuel for that argument. Green-Ellis started the game and had four rushes for four yards and didn't have his usual magic on converting short-yardage situations.
Andre Smith, Offensive Tackle: Smith hasn't been the same dominant player that he was in 2012 and he had a rough game on Sunday night. Touted as their best run blocker, Smith was part of a group that only mustered 57 yards on the ground, 2.6 yards per carry and a long gain of nine yards (by Andy Dalton). Smith also had a false start penalty in the disastrous first quarter.
Andrew Whitworth, Offensive Guard: For how well that Whitworth's transition to the inside has gone over the past couple of games, it went the opposite way on Sunday night. Aside from the aforementioned woes in the running game, Whitworth had a false start and a holding penalty in the game. The false start occurred early in the second quarter and made that drive evaporate with long yardage to go. It was a similar fate with the hold, as that led to Gresham's fumble--again, due to long yardage needed for the first.