By David Todd
The Steelers lost their second game 20-10 to the Cincinnati Bengals Monday night at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati falling to 0-2 for the first time since 2002. In a script that closely resembled their season-opening loss to Tennessee, the Steelers took an early lead, this time 3-0 as opposed to 2-0, but later in the first quarter fumbled inside the red zone, lost momentum and never found any offensive rhythm. The Steelers again lost the turnover battle 2-0 and had trouble getting any type of ground game established, rushing for only two yards in the second half. Also for the second game in a row, the Steelers failed to get a first down in the third quarter. Two late drives into Bengals territory ended in an interception and time running out. The Bengals ran 24 more offensive plays than the Steelers and had a massive 11:08 advantage in time of possession. The defense played well enough to keep the team in the game, but a lack of big plays and key stops plagued them once again.
The Steelers appeared to come out of this one in fairly good shape, one significant change from week one. Isaac Redman appeared to get his bell rung on the opening kickoff and did not start the game as he was evaluated for a concussion. Redman did return and Mike Tomlin did not note any other injuries in his postgame press conference.
*The offense did put up almost a hundred more yards that in week one, but 101 of the team’s 278 total yards came in the last eight minutes when the team was desperately trying to get back in it.
*Derek Moye and Ben Roethlisberger hooked up on a nice back shoulder fade for a one-yard touchdown late in the first half. Good throw and a good first-career catch by Moye with a Bengals DB draped all over him.
*The top two receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders had solid games combining for 11 catches for 135 yards.
*A very good first half read and reaction by Ben seeing a Bengals blitz on a stretch handoff to Felix Jones. Ben opted to keep the ball and turned a potential five-yard loss into a six-yard gain. Yep, slim pickings on the offensive side again.
*David Paulson fumbled on the Cincinnati 13-yard line late in the first quarter nullifying a 34-yard gain and completely changing the momentum. Much like the Redman/Roethlisberger fumble in week one, this was a killer.
*The offensive line continues to struggle mightily. At first blush it appears the Fernando Velasco did a solid job getting the start at center, but the Steelers again failed to establish any kind of running game and Ben had very few opportunities to step up in a clean pocket and make throws.
*Steelers running backs ran 14 times for 43 yards which included a 14-yard gain by Felix Jones on 3rd-and-16 in the first quarter. That just isn’t going to cut it.
*Play-calling and formations didn’t seem to match what the Steelers were trying to do. After losing Pouncey and LaRod Stephens-Howling in week one the team apparently had to abandon much of their offensive game plan which included using Kelvin Beachum as an extra tight end. They appeared no better prepared in this one with a long week to work. Beachum didn’t play as an extra tight end in even one play that I noticed and tight ends Michael Palmer and David Johnson and fullback Will Johnson were hardly utilized. David Paulson is clearly overmatched as a blocking tight end. 11 personnel would not seem to be the answer for what the Steelers wanted to do, but it was the most common grouping. If they were trying to spread the Bengals in order to run the ball, it didn’t work.
*With all the speed options at wide receiver, how do you choose to run an end around with Jerricho Cotchery, who also had an uncharacteristic drop in this one?
*Ike Taylor was excellent. He limited wide out A.J. Green to six catches for 41 yards on 14 targets as he again followed him all over the field and received little or no help. Green’s long gain was 10 yards.
*Jarvis Jones continues to impress. There are certainly going to be mistakes, but Jones led the team with seven solo tackles and has clearly separated himself from Jason Worilds at the right OLB position. Jones = playmaker.
*Many Steelers defenders had solid games, but as we saw so often last year and in week one, they failed to come up with any big game-changing plays. They didn’t cause any turnovers and had zero sacks.
*After being dominated by the Titans in time of possession at 34:01 to 25:59 in week one, the Bengals had the ball even longer, with an 11+ minute advantage. They sustained 14 and 10 play drives in the fourth quarter when the Steelers were desperate to get the ball back. The Bengals ran 79 plays to the Steelers 55.
*It looked like Ryan Clark completely blew the coverage on the Dalton-to-Eifert catch and throw for 61 yards. Clark bit on a pump fake and left the middle of the field and Eifert was off to the races up the seam. It also looked as if Clark missed a couple of tackles on the night as well.
*Kion Wilson appeared to stumble and take a bad angle on the 27-yard checkdown for a touchdown to Gio Bernard. Bernard was impressive. He and Eifert are two nice weapons the Bengals have added at the top of this year’s draft class.
*Felix Jones opening kick-off return for 34 yards and Antonio Brown’s 40-yard punt return were two key plays that afforded the Steelers better field position than they saw any time in week one. They turned Brown’s return into three points and an early lead.
*The Steelers coverage teams were excellent led again by Jarvis Jones who was in on a bunch of plays.
*Zoltan Mesko and Kevin Huber both punted seven times for 326 yards, a 46.6 yard average, but Mesko had a 42.7 yard net versus 38.4 for Huber.
*Nothing really to comment on here.
*The Steelers only committed three penalties for 29 yards versus nine for 84 for the Bengals. One of those penalties however, was a questionable tripping call wiping out a big gain as the Steelers were trying to get back in the game.
*As I wrote last week, “When the offense plays that poorly the offensive coordinator is sure to come under fire. With Roethlisberger under constant pressure and the running game going nowhere I’m not sure how much blame Haley should take…” I’m sure both Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley and Mike Tomin are going to come under fire this week. Nothing the Steelers drew up offensively worked and the Steelers again came out after halftime and laid an egg. Two games, zero third quarter first downs and two rushing first downs on the season.
*As mentioned above the distribution of playing time and the offensive personnel groupings were a bit head-scratching.
*In another late game move that probably didn’t effect the outcome, the Steelers probably should have tried a 51-yard field goal with 24 seconds left. it was the more-likely, out of two highly unlikely ways, to get 10 points at the end.
Big Officiating Calls:
*The tripping call against Marcus Gilbert early in the third quarter nullified a 33-yard completion to Antonio Brown. It was a questionable call at best.
Up Next: The Steelers take on the Chicago Bears at Heinz Field Sunday September 22. Kick-off is scheduled for 8:30 and the game will be on Sunday Night Football.
Reminder: You can hear me and Tom Bradley on the postgame show on the Steelers Radio Network after every Steelers game. You can listen on the Steeler Gameday app, the Steelers Nation Radio app on iHeart Radio or DVE or 970 ESPN in Pittsburgh. You can hear me weekdays on 970 ESPN from 4-7 pm and you can follow me on twitter @DavidMTodd