The Bengals played in yet another game in which they had several opportunities to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Just like they did all season, they blew it and lost 16-10, which is their sixth loss by one score this season.
Is it a good thing that the Bengals kept the Steelers to only 16 points?
Yes, but considering their personnel on offense, it’s not that impressive. The Steelers are signing people off the streets and they’re using a fraction of their playbook. They could possibly get shut out by the Browns next week.
So with the Bengals with a two-game advantage in the draft order and a humiliating loss to the Steelers, what did we learn?
Cordy Glenn was sorely missed
After it looked like Cordy Glenn might never play for the Bengals again, he made his season debut in Week 12 and was the best offensive lineman on the team.
He matched up against Bud Dupree for most of the game, and won a majority of the battles. Dupree only had two tackles on the game, though one of them was a costly strip-sack. This was late in the fourth quarter, so maybe it had to do more with conditioning than anything else.
Of course, Glenn didn’t fix all the problems on the offensive line. Bobby Hart was a hot mess on the other side of the line, and T.J. Watt had a great game against him.
It’s pretty much just one less frustration. Will this help Finley’s development? Probably not. Will it help Mixon run the ball better? Maybe a little, but not much.
At most, Glenn will help fix this terrible offensive line next year. If the Bengals stick with their original plan of moving Glenn to left guard and playing Jonah Williams at left tackle, then that gives them more flexibility on other spots on the line.
Or perhaps he will want a trade in the offseason. In that case, the Bengals might be able to get an extra Day 3 pick for him.
Either way, he was good on Sunday, and hopefully he will be able to keep it up.
Dennard and Lawson are difference makers
The Bengals’ defense does seem to have turned a corner in recent weeks. The defense has turned around mostly because of two key players returning to full health: Darqueze Dennard and Carl Lawson.
Dennard is a huge reason why the Bengals’ run game has beefed up. Up to Week 7, Dennard’s first game back from injury, the Bengals have averaged 189 rushing yards a game given up. Since Week 8, that figure has dropped to 127. It’s also worth noting that the Bengals gave five games of 175+ in the first seven weeks, and none in the last five.
But Dennard’s run stopping ability isn’t the only reason he has been so valuable in this defense. He is also the best slot corner they have. He had one key pass defended in the end zone to keep the Steelers first scoring drive to three points instead of six.
Carl Lawson has been in and out of rehab this season, but this is the longest stretch of the season he has been fully healthy. His uncanny ability to pressure the quarterback has been sorely missed.
Receivers have to win their battles
When it comes to quarterback, it’s been obvious this season that Ryan Finley and Andy Dalton are not going to win the Bengals any games by themselves. They needs help.
The Bengals had two scoring drives, and neither one of them were manufactured by Finley. On the first one, Finley threw up two 50-50 balls to Tyler Boyd, who made some amazing catches to put points on the board.
On the second one, Joe Mixon doubled his production on the day to get the Bengals in field goal range.
The Bengals are now going back to Dalton, as they have three games worth of tape on Finley, so they have a good idea of how he plays, and it’s bad. They should notice by now that his accuracy is not quite was they thought it was, and his pocket awareness makes him unplayable.
Going forward, the Bengals should try to do what they did on the one touchdown drive of the game: make the receivers make plays. There is a problem with that though. Outside of Boyd, the Bengals’ active wide receivers are a former seventh round pick and three former undrafted free agents.
The Bengals also have a Pro Bowl receiving tight end in Tyler Eifert, and another pretty good one in C.J. Uzomah. Maybe this means they involve the tight ends more.