Another trip to Heinz Field for the Bengals and another trip home with their tail between their legs. They tried their best to fight and claw back from yet more self-induced mistakes, but it just wasn't enough. The Sunday Night showdown in Pittsburgh again proved that the Steelers are more difficult for the Bengals to beat than any other opponent listed on their schedule.
Last week, we laid out our weekly five keys to victory, and as part of the post-game analysis, we look at how important each fact ended up being, as well as how the Bengals fared in each. Let's have a look.
Causing Turnovers And Sacks:
Importance: Extremely High
How Bengals Fared: Average To Below Average
Synopsis: Ben Roethlisberger shouldn't be classified as "nimble", but for his size, "Big Ben" shows escapability and a knack for running for yardage when it's there. As he's aged, the scrambling has subsided a little, but defensive lines still have to play a little bit of contain on him to honor that ability to move. Early in his career, suffocating him, not letting Roethlisberger move around and play his brand of backyard football was key. Now, pressure is required on Roethlisberger in order to disrupt their offensive system.
In that respect, the Bengals utterly failed. The front four, including 2014's best player on the line, Carlos Dunlap, might has well have not even been there. Roethlisberger had all evening to throw and even the minimal blitzes that the Bengals did bring were utterly ineffective. They did force three turnovers though, leading to 10 points and if the Bengals had limited their own turnovers, they could have eked out the win.
Utilizing The Versatility Within The Two-Back System:
How Bengals Fared: Good
Synopsis: Though it may not have felt like it, Jeremy Hill did have another 100-yard game on the ground--his fifth in the past nine weeks. Unfortunately, Giovani Bernard didn't have the same kind of success on the ground with just three carries and eight yards. The spry second-year back had some major contributions in the passing game with seven catches for 57 yards and a receiving touchdown. There were many instances that the Steelers bracketed coverage to A.J. Green to limit damage from him and Bernard was left alone on short routes.
Avoiding The Pittsburgh Snowball Effect:
Importance: Extremely High
How Bengals Fared: Fair
Synopsis: As has been the case a number of times with the Bengals and Steelers, Cincinnati has allowed mistakes to mount and supplied the Steelers with an opportunity to pile on the points. It seemed to happen early with two Andy Dalton interceptions, allowing a punt return for a touchdown and then a missing field goal on the first possession of the second half. The Bengals were down 20-10 to the Steelers until the fourth quarter.
However, Cincinnati forced two second half turnovers (one at the end of the third quarter and one in the fourth), climbed back in it at 20-17 and were driving to score again in the fourth. Unfortunately, on that critical late drive, Green caught a 17-yard pass from Dalton and fumbled it away. Three plays later, Roethlisberger hit the dagger on a long touchdown pass to Antonio Brown.
Le'Veon Bell, Le'Veon Bell, Le'Veon Bell:
How Bengals Fared: Above Average
Synopsis: Though Brown was the star again on Sunday Night, the Bengals definitely needed to bottle him up. They definitely did so on the ground, allowing just 20 rushing yards on eight carries (2.5 average). Bell did some damage in the passing game with six catches for 80 yards, but stayed out of the end zone. Bell getting injured later in the game affected his overall output, but it was Brown who was far more effective on the night.
"Out-Steeler" The Steelers:
How Bengals Fared: Below Average To Poor
Synopsis: Physicality and attitude. It's what defines the Steelers. Over the years it has also defined the Baltimore Ravens--it's why that rivalry is so nasty right now. Only on rare occasions have the Bengals been able to prove equal or better than Pittsburgh in this regard. They didn't match it again on Sunday night.
Cedric Peerman got smoked on a kick return and got concussed, as did Green on his fumble after the reception. How many times did Gio Bernard go flying with the ball in his hands as defenders tossed him? Sure, Reggie Nelson had a couple of physical hits on Bell and Heath Miller, but overall the Bengals weren't as grizzly as the bullies. Until they learn how to be, they won't beat Pittsburgh on a consistent basis.