The Steelers took a beating from the Bengals in a 41-10 loss
In one of their worst outings in recent memory, the Steelers confirmed what many have begun to suspect, they are no longer the 'kings' of the AFC north.
The Bengals took apart the Steelers, leaving Roethlisberger and company with many questions unanswered.
The Bengals maul the Steelers
With 30 seconds on the clock and half time approaching, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow threw an interception with Steelers' Minkah Fitzpatick being the willing recipient. The Steelers at that point were down by three scores and seemingly preparing to try to take advantage of the unexpected turn over. On the next play Roethlisberger targeted wide receiver James Washington on an out route, but sadly only found the hands of a former Steeler and now Bengals veteran, defensive back Mike Hilton. Having picked off his former quarterback Hilton then proceeded to run it back 24 yards for a touchdown and what would be point of punctuation in crippling 41-10 Steelers loss.
The theme has become well documented having passed the halfway point of the Season. The Steelers who are now 5-5-1 were once the team to beat in the AFC North but that accolade now seems long gone as with each passing week they continue put their short comings on full display. Speaking on the rivalry between the two teams Hilton spoke of a shift in power. "It's a big changing of the guard, in our opinion," he said. "It's giving us a lot of confidence and guys are excited to see how the rest of the season plays out." Indeed as the players went to the locker room after the big win, one player could be heard shouting, "It's our f---ing division!"
The Steelers were "Embarrassing"
In a low voice and visible frustration etched on his face, pass-rusher T.J. Watt lamented not just the general defensive failures on the night, but his own as well. The ground game employed by the Bengals was especially damaging as running back Joe Mixon set a career high with 165 rushing yards before the fourth quarter even started. "It wasn't something any of us are proud of," Watt said. "You never want to have that feeling coming out of a game. We put it on tape and now we have to own it, move forward and know that everybody sees what just happened today and what we can expect moving forward. We have to stop this before it continues to unravel and become a bigger issue than what it already is. We can't keep playing like this. It's absolutely embarrassing."
Not only did the Bengals who are now 7-4 sweep the Steelers for the first time since 2009, but they also outscored them by 45 points in the two matchups. For the Steelers it marked their biggest loss since losing to the Philadelphia Eagles 34-3 in 2016.
The Steelers will have to reflect
Speaking after the loss, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was no less frustrated than his players. "It's alarming, it is. We're not trying to play it cool by any stretch. We don't play football like that, but we have been our last couple of weeks, so some adjustments need to be made." While the alarm bells aren't ringing just yet, it is clear that the Steelers are failing to control the line of scrimmage. In their last game they managed a comeback against the Los Angeles Chargers, but the signs were there. The Steelers have given up 722 rushing yards in four games. Watt for his part was open about the problems facing the Steelers. "We're trying to solve it and clearly we're not doing a good enough job," he said. "We have to go back to the film and everyone has to look at the film and watch themselves critically and figure out how to stop this thing because it's continuous."
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There were also the words of defensive captain Cameron Heyward, who believed it was probably the worst defensive he's witnessed in his 10 years with the team. "I don't know, I'm probably going to say yes," he said. "I don't look at the past. All I can do is worry about the present. There's a lot of football to be played, but if we do what we did out there today, we won't win another damn game."
Steelers need to work on offense as well
Though there was much focus on their inability to cope with the Bengals' running game, it was quite noticeable that their own was lacking. With just 51 yards on 15 attempts they were not in good shape. Running back Najee Harris was limited to a meager 23 yards on eight carries, making it his worst game for the season. With the loss the Steelers now sit at the bottom of the AFC North standings. Should they fail to get back on track they are in real danger of missing the playoffs.
"It's tough because you're getting into crunch time," Roethlisberger said after the loss. "Division opponent. And you want to come out and play good football and you don't. It stinks, but you have to move on because we've got another one next week. ...I don't know what happened today, but the AFC seems open. Obviously, we didn't do ourselves any favors, but there's still six left. How can we bounce back? That's going to be the key."