Steelers awful -- again -- in 20-10 loss

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Any doubt as to the exact ineptitude of the Steelers offense was erased Monday night with another abysmal performance, this time against the Cincinnati Bengals and resulted in a 20-10 loss.

The Steelers are 0-2 and there's no reason to believe this is going to get a lot better any time soon.

There will be finger-pointing all around and most of it directed at coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. And while it's true the buck must stop with them, this awful performance was a result of execution. This wasn't about poor play-calling or poor game-planning. This was about poor on-field performance.

The Steelers offense not only isn't very good, it's very bad.

Ben Roethlisberger has not played up to his expected standard. It's hard to be effective with a poor supporting cast, but Roethlisberger must take some of the blame. His performance last night was close to being poor.

Early in the night, amid the 10 million or so words he threw at his viewing audience, ESPN color analyst Jon Gruden said, ``Ben Roethlisberger and his pass receiving corps are not on the same page.'' It was as astute a comment as Gruden made all night.

In fairness, it's hard to execute a passing offense when the opposing defense doesn't have to concern itself with a running game. About the only good thing that could be said about the running game was that it wasn't as bad as in the season-opening loss to Tennessee. But that is damning it with the faintest praise.

The Steelers managed only two decent drives during the game. The first resulted in a first-half touchdown that was set up on a 43-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders. A promising fourth-quarter drive, on which the Steelers achieved their first first down of the second half, ended when a high Roethlisberger pass went off the hands of Jerricho Cotchery and was intercepted.

Roethlisberger completed 20 of 37 passes for 251 yards. He threw one touchdown and one interception and had a passer rating of a mediocre 73.1. He was sacked twice, down from five the week before, but often was under heavy pressure, particularly in the second half.

The notion held by some that the Steelers would be able to mount an effective offense as long as Roethlisberger was at quarterback is not looking to be correct.

The most lopsided statistic and the true tale of this game was time of possession, once a Steelers strength. The Bengals had the ball for 35 minutes, 34 seconds and the Steelers for 24:26. At one point in the second half, the Bengals had a 17:02 to 4:09 advantage.

Felix Jones got the start and most of the carries at running back -- 10 for 37 yards. As a team, the Steelers gained 44 yards on 16 carries. The running game, once the strength of the franchise, declined significantly last season. This season, thus far, it has crumpled.

There were two critical plays in the game.

• In the first quarter, with the Steelers leading, 3-0, tight end David Paulson caught a pass inside the Bengals' 20 but was stripped of the ball as he was tackled and lost it just before he hit the ground for a fumble. The Bengals took over on their own 13, and with a 67-yard pass to Tyler Eifert being the big play, moved for a score in five plays to take a lead.

• On the Steelers first possession of the second half, in a 10-10 game, Roethlisberger connected on a 33-yard pass to Antonio Brown that would have put the ball inside the Bengals' 30. But tackle Marcus Gilbert was called for tripping on the play, which appeared to be inadvertent, and the play was nullified.

After that the Steelers never mounted a serious threat until moving to the Bengals 27 in the fourth quarter, from where Roethlisberger threw the interception that ended any chance the Steelers had of winning.

For the second straight game, the defense acquitted itself well enough. But with the offense the Steelers have shown this season, a well-enough defense isn't nearly good enough.

Steelers - bobsmiziksports


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