Steelers remain winless after 20-10 loss to Bengals
September 17, 2013 1:30 PM
Steelers tight end David Paulson fumbles the ball while being tackled in Cincinnati.
The Bengals' James Harrison pauses during warmups before the game between the Steelers and the Bengals.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger walks off the field after throwing interception in the final minutes of the loss to the Bengals.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CINCINNATI -- The Steelers have tripped over the opening of their season like nothing they've done in more than a decade, since the last days of Kordell Stewart as their starting quarterback.
Cincinnati's rare 20-10 victory over their listless AFC North rivals Monday night dropped the Steelers to 0-2 for the first time under Mike Tomlin or Ben Roethlisberger, and a tie for last place with Cleveland in the division.
They last opened with consecutive losses in '02. It also was only the second time the Bengals (1-1) have beaten the Steelers at home in the past 13 games between the teams.
"We are a frustrated group right now," Tomlin said. "We got work to do. There's a certain amount of misery that comes with the position we're in. We're aware of it."
Again, the toothless Steelers defense produced no turnovers, continuing a trend that began in 2011 and repeated itself when they came up with zero in their opener. They also did not have a sack Monday and have just one in two games.
That wasn't the case for the Bengals. They produced two key turnovers and also sacked Roethlisberger twice. The franchise that long prided itself on running the ball well and stopping the run did neither again. They had 44 yards rushing while the Bengals came in with 127.
"If we don't shore some things up," defensive co-captain Ryan Clark said, "if we don't play better than we played tonight, we won't win A game."
Cincinnati sealed the deal Monday when, on third-and-two at the Bengals' 27, Roethlisberger threw high to Jerricho Cotchery. The receiver got enough hand on the ball to tip it into the air but safety Reggie Nelson came down with it for the interception with 4:55 left.
It's the kind of play the Steelers have not been able to make on defense.
"It doesn't look like Steeler football out there," said Isaac Redman, who had four yards on three carries.
The other Steelers turnover came in the first quarter after David Paulson caught a 34-yard pass to the Bengals 16, but then fumbled it away.
Roethlisberger completed 20 of 37 passes for 251 yards, with that one interception and a one-yard touchdown pass to Derek Moye. Felix Jones led the Steelers with 37 yards rushing on 10 carries. Their running game went nowhere for the second straight game with just 44 yards on 16 tries.
"We have to figure out what's working for us now -- pretty much nothing," said Redman, who missed the first quarter after he was hit in the head on the opening kickoff. "We have to figure this out. It's embarrassing, it really is. It gets frustrating."
Through all their problems, somehow the Steelers were tied with the Bengals 10-10 at halftime. But then Cincinnati scored a touchdown in the third quarter and a time-consuming field goal drive in the fourth quarter for a 20-10 lead. And that was that.
"We need to get this show on the road," Redman said. "It's not going to get any easier."
Rookie halfback Giovani Bernard scored his second touchdown of the game as the Bengals reclaimed the lead, 17-10, after three quarters.
Then, quarterback Andy Dalton guided them on a 14-play, 57-yard fourth-quarter drive that ate up nearly seven minutes. Mike Nugent kicked his second field goal of the night, from 25 yards, to put the Bengals up by 10.
Dalton completed 25 of 45 passes for 280 yards under little pressure from the Steelers pass rush.
"Man, we got to do a better job of stopping the run," said LaMarr Woodley. "Our job is to get off the field on third down or get a turnover. We didn't do that."
Earlier in that second half, the Steelers missed another chance to score when Roethlisberger completed a third-down pass to Antonio Brown for 33 yards to the Bengals' 30. However, tackle Marcus Gilbert was penalized for tripping on the play.
Instead of putting them in scoring range, they were back on the Cincinnati 27, third-and-20. Roethlisberger was sacked on the next play for an 11 yard loss and they punted.
"That was BS," Gilbert said of the penalty call. "I was finishing my block. They said that I lifted my leg on purpose."
Cincinnati scored a touchdown on the next series that covered 78yards to break into a 17-10 lead. It ended when Bernard took a short pass over the middle from Dalton and juked his way 27 yards without a hand laid on him for his second touchdown of the night.
Things looked a little better right before halftime when Roethlisberger took his struggling Steelers offense 65 yards for a touchdown to forge a 10-10 tie.
Roethlisberger hit Emmanuel Sanders for two straight completions of 19 and 43 yards to put the ball on the Bengals one yardline.
From there, Roethlisberger threw a fade pass that the 6-foor-5 Moye caught in the right corner of the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown to tie it up with 1:54 left in the half.
The Bengals had increased their lead to 10-3 early in the second quarter when Mike Nugent kicked a 41-yard field goal.
Earlier, they scored their first touchdown after Paulson's fumble and it did not take long for the Bengals to make the Steelers pay in a big way. From the 26 after a first down, rookie tight end Tyler Eifert broke free in the middle of the field with no one covering him. Dalton hit him in stride near midfield and Eifert completed the 61-yard play to the 13.
Two plays later, another rookie, halfback Giovani Bernard ran up the middle for a 7-yard touchdown and a 7-3 Bengals lead.
Antonio Brown returned the game's first punt 40 yards to Cincinnati's 34 yardline, which led to Shaun Suisham's 44-yard field goal and a 3-0 Steelers lead with 10:42 left in the opening quarter.
"We still have 14 games left," Sanders said. "There is no need to panic. We're not in trouble."