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Bengals’ running game struggles mightily in loss to Steelers

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The Bengals’ rushing attack never got going during Sunday’s loss as Pittsburgh’s defense clearly had Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard under wraps when running the ball.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals’ rushing attack was shut down by the Steelers on Sunday in the 24-16 loss, as Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard had nowhere to run.

Hill, the team’s leading rusher, had 11 carries for just 22 yards, an average of 2 yards-per-carry, and his longest run was for just five yards. On top of the bad yardage numbers, Hill couldn’t punch it into the end zone either, which we’ve grown accustomed to seeing him do, even when struggling elsewhere.

Bernard struggled just about as badly as Hill, generating five carries for 17 yards, an average of 3.4 yards-per-carry. Bernard also didn’t have a rushing touchdown, but did have a run of 10 yards. That was the longest run of the day for the Bengals’ offense. Bernard was able to shine more as a receiver and had a 25-yard touchdown catch on the afternoon, which gave some life to the Bengals in the fourth quarter.

Surprisingly, Andy Dalton had the highest yards-per-carry average of any rusher, as he had two rushing attempts for 7 yards, a 3.5 yard average.

The team had a total of just 46 rushing yards, making up just 11 percent of the team’s total offense (412 total yards), and accounting for zero of their 16 points.

That certainly didn’t stack up well to the Steelers’ rushing attack that totaled 124 yards without Le’veon Bell on the field. DeAngelo Williams did his best to fill in, racking up 94 yards on a heavy workload of 32 carries.

What really hurts Cincinnati is that they topped Pittsburgh in the passing game. Dalton out-passed Roethlisberger by more than 100 yards, 366-259, and didn’t throw a single interception while Roethlisberger threw two. Dalton’s passer rating of 84.3 topped Big Ben’s, as did his completion percentage of 57%. If the Bengals could have had even the slightest bit of balance in their attack, it could’ve gone a long way to changing the outcome of the one possession game.

The Bengals — and their fans -- have been confident that this running back duo can produce after seeing both Hill and Bernard have great individual seasons in the past, but it’s been a struggle for them through two games this season. The rushing yardage hasn’t been there for either back in Weeks 1 or 2.

If the Bengals want to move past where they’ve been stuck for five years now, they have to develop a stronger running game. The passing game is there with Dalton, and if he can continue to throw for over 300 yards a game he’ll be capable of leading the team on a postseason run. However, a dynamic offense would allow Cincinnati to get past teams like Pittsburgh, both in the regular season and in the postseason.

If nothing else, there’s at least a positive to take away from Bernard’s dual threat ability, as he looked more like a star wide receiver than a running back. He led the Bengals in receiving yards this week with an even 100, and led the team in receptions with nine.