Calm down; Bengals loss was hardly 'devastating'

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Heard more than one person use the word "devastating" in the ridiculously overdone hysteria after the Steelers' loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday.

It seemed like an especially silly choice of words on the weekend the NFL returned to New Orleans.

If the Steelers' loss was devastating, what does that make Hurricane Katrina?

I know, I know, the foolish panic-button pushers were talking strictly in a football sense. Still, it's beyond absurd to bring out the "d" word after a loss in the third game of a 16-game season. The only truly devastating loss in sports is the one that eliminates a team from playoff competition. This 28-20 home loss to the Bengals hardly qualified even if it did leave the Steelers in a sizable two-game crater beneath the Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North Division.

That doesn't mean the emotional overreaction wasn't predictable, though.

You just knew the nonsense you would hear the second after Ben Roethlisberger threw his third interception of the game in the Bengals' end zone with 10 seconds left.

Cut Colclough!

Bench Big Ben!

Fire Cowher!

Easy, people. Easy.

"Crazy as it might sound, I thought we did some good things," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said after the game.

It's not crazy at all, actually.

It's hard to remember them because of the Steelers' blunders. Five turnovers trump all, not to mention Nate Washington's dropped touchdown pass and the thoughtless penalties for excessive celebrating and taunting. But they were there nonetheless.

Start with the running game. A week after the Steelers rushed for 26 yards in a loss at Jacksonville -- a franchise low under Cowher -- they ran for 170 yards against the Bengals, 133 by Willie Parker. Parker deserves a lot of credit, but his offensive linemen deserve more. They were terrible in Jacksonville, terrific against Cincinnati, especially on Parker's first-quarter, 3-yard touchdown run when they practically knocked the Bengals into the end zone bleachers.

Sure, the running game still has its issues. Parker had 31 carries, which are about 8-10 too many. The Steelers are going to get him hurt using him that much. Somebody has to step up to give Parker a blow. It can't be Verron Haynes if he can't hang on to the ball, which he didn't do when he lost a killer fourth-quarter fumble. Maybe it can be Najeh Davenport. Or even Duce Staley.

Still, it was nice to see Parker run so effectively behind his line.

The defense also was a plus. It held its own against the best offense it will face all season. It had the game won in the fourth quarter before Ricardo Colclough fumbled on a punt return at the Steelers' 9 and Haynes lost his fumble at the Steelers' 30.

The defense did a nice job regrouping after Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer led two long second-quarter touchdown drives by completing 12 of 12 passes -- excluding two spikes to stop the clock -- for 111 yards and two touchdowns. The Bengals' first five possessions of the second half produced one first down. One ended after safety Ryan Clark laid out wide receiver Chris Henry with a wicked hit on a play that ended with an interception by cornerback Ike Taylor. Another ended after cornerback Deshea Townsend forced a Palmer fumble. A third ended after sacks by defensive end Aaron Smith and linebacker Clark Haggans.

"We were playing Pittsburgh Steelers football," Clark said.

It's a shame Roethlisberger's interceptions and the fumbles by Colclough and Haynes sabotaged an effort that included six sacks, a paltry 47 yards on 19 carries by running back Rudi Johnson and three fumbles and two interceptions by Palmer. The performance would have been good enough to beat the Bengals on most days. It would have been good enough to beat just about everyone else on any day.

Maybe the most encouraging aspect of the defense's play was that the players didn't exactly sound satisfied with themselves. They took the blame for the loss instead of hanging it on Roethlisberger, Colclough, Haynes and Washington.

"We got after Carson really well," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "I think we had him flustered, but it wasn't enough. We've got to do more."

Said linebacker James Farrior, "Our red-zone defense was terrible. We gave up four scores."

Maybe the next time those touchdowns are just field goals. Cowher has promised to take care of the stupid penalties that were taken by Parker and Haynes and by safety Mike Logan. It's nice to think Colclough won't return punts anymore. Certainly, Roethlisberger won't throw three picks again. And the receivers can't keep dropping the ball, can they?

Do you really see a reason to cancel the rest of the season?

Is the devastation really that bad?


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