clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What we learned from Bengals’ wacky loss to Steelers

A lot. We learned a lot.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In the future, if anyone wants to convince another of the value of playing starters in the preseason, they can just show them this game.

The Cincinnati Bengals were as sloppy and rusty as it gets. It’s hard to think of a talented team shooting itself in the foot more than they did yesterday. And yet, the game required a full overtime period to be decided.

There was actually a lot that we learned about the state of the roster. So let’s get right to it.

The offensive line still has room for improvement

We were all excited when we saw the front office finally took steps to upgrade the line. They signed three guys! And one of them was a big name! But the reality is, they were all second-tier free agents.

Usually when a team makes a move for a top-notch starter, it dishes out a deal that puts the player right near the top of salaries for his position. But Alex Cappa will only make about half what Brandon Scherff of the Jacksonville Jaguars will make. Ted Karras is only the twelfth highest paid center. And La’el Collins is the tenth highest paid right tackle, making a little more than one third of what Ryan Ramczyk of the New Orleans Saints is getting.

In other words, there are no Andrew Whitworths, or, instant fixes, like Whit was for the Los Angeles Rams back in 2017, when he started a new culture on the line that seems to have disappeared following his retirement.

And when you consider just how bad the line was last year, we shouldn’t be shocked that the big brother Pittsburgh Steelers—with one of the better defensive lines in the game—got to Joe Burrow seven times. However, most of the damage occurred on the left side of the line where Jonah Williams and rookie Cordell Volson play.

As the game progressed, the line started settling in. Cappa and Karras ended up with solid performances, and Collins had his moments as well. Volson and Williams need to be more consistent for the unit to hold up for an entire afternoon.

Long snappers matter

As it turns out, Clark Harris is more than just beautiful flowing locks and super spicy fan engagement. His biceps injury directly impacted the game in a major way.

Evan McPherson’s extra point attempt with just two seconds remaining in regulation was blocked on account of a slow snap from Harris’ replacement, Mitchell Wilcox. Then, in overtime, Wilcox’s snap was high on a potential 29-yard game-winning field goal. McPherson’s shot went wide left.

So this is a serious concern now. If Harris can’t go next week, Cal Adomitis will get a shot. And you can be sure that Darrin Simmons and the special teams unit will be going extra hard trying to get him ready.

Zac Taylor is still growing

Fans were not happy with the fourth-year head coach’s playcalling or field awareness. He chose not to challenge what was clearly a touchdown by Ja’Marr Chase with 2:54 remaining in the first half. Instead, the Bengals would turn the ball over on downs.

Taylor then chose to kick the field goal on third down in overtime due to the long snapper situation, a bold move that backfired after another bad snap. The thinking is, if your special teams has issues, why not make one more attempt to pick up the first down?

Finally, Taylor didn’t run the clock down on Kevin Huber’s punt with 1:04 remaining in overtime, giving the Steelers just enough time to pull off the last second field goal. Again, the concern was the inexperience of Wilcox.

Then, of course, there are the grumblings about his lack of innovation and diversity of play options. Bengals Twitter asks that he incorporate more RPOs and play action, ways of getting Burrow in a groove and on the move to free him up from the constant onslaught of pass rushers.

Joe Burrow has the Mamba mentality

Kobe Bryant once said, “I’d rather go zero for thirty than go zero for nine. Zero for nine means you beat yourself, you psyched yourself out of the game.”

Burrow threw a pick-six on his very first attempt. He threw another two interceptions in the first half and lost a fumble. He threw yet another interception in the second half. But he still ended up with 53 pass attempts. More importantly, he had his team in position to win multiple times at the end of the game.

Those who choose to criticize Burrow’s turnovers, throw around the words “regression” or “Jared Goff,” or compare him to Justin Herbert seem to miss the point. Just like they missed the point when they would mention Bryant’s shooting efficiency.

Some guys just play to win. Kobe hurled four airballs in an elimination game his rookie year. But he ended up with five championships. Burrow could’ve thrown 10 interceptions this game. And it would, in no way, be an indication that he can’t read defenses or that he lacks arm talent. All it says is that, he’s not going to tone it down and just try to keep the deficit respectable. He’s going for that win every single drive. And that’s why we love him.