The Cincinnati Bengals were dealt a 33-20 loss by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The “L” wasn’t a devastating blow, as far as the division is concerned. But Andy Dalton was injured during the first quarter and missed the rest of the game. With Dalton out, it was hard for the Bengals to do much on offense. The defense also suffered a few setbacks. Yet, with all the chaos, the focus is now on next week’s contest against the San Francisco 49ers. Let’s take a look back at the five major keys to see how the Bengals fared against the Steelers.
The Bengals did come out looking stout on defense, but there was something lacking. The absence of Adam Jones and a groin injury to safety George Iloka made a big difference. The secondary was able to effectively shut Big Ben down. That may not seem like the truth, since the Steelers won. But according to stats from ESPN, Ben Roethlisberger was held under 300 yards. That’s the first time, since Week 9, that he hasn’t thrown for over 3oo yards. The Bengals’ defense also held Martavis Bryant, Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton out of the end zone. Heath Miller was once again the problem. He was targeted 10 times and made every catch. This blueprint needs to be destroyed immediately.
The Bengals were able to pressure Roethlisberger, but they needed to hassle him more. The defense was able to sack him twice and cause hesitation on a few bad throws. When dealing with a quarterback the size of a Mack truck, there has to be constant hurries and arms waving. Getting the ball to Heath Miller was the saving grace for Ben. He was able to convert a few third down situations and get the Steelers into second-and-short with Miller’s sure hands. If the Bengals meet the Steelers in the playoffs, they’ll have to send a few more safety blitzes to rattle Roethlisberger.
The running game
Once again, Hue Jackson decided to abandon the running game against the Steelers. Jeremy Hill had a quick burst on the first drive of the game and was put on the shelf. Giovani Bernard was effective as usual, but only managed to get six rushing attempts for the entire game. If Jackson had utilized the speedy Bernard, a ball control offense would have made a huge difference. When a running back is averaging 6.7 yards a pop, the Bengals might want to see how well he does against the defense. In order to get confidence and gain better sight, most backs need a minimum of 16 carries.
The Bengals’ offensive line actually did a great job. The injury to Dalton’s thumb came when he was out of the pocket and attempting to make a tackle. After A.J. McCarron took over for Andrew, the line allowed two sacks. That can easily be attributed to McCarron not feeling the blitz and coming in cold. A he tried to make reads downfield and get a better feel for the game, it was natural to not feel the pocket collapse. The O-line also created holes for Bernard to slip through.
Make the most of scoring opportunities
To be honest, the Bengals were decent. If the Bengals run the ball on the drive that got Dalton hurt, the game takes on another complexion and possibly a different result. Asking Mike Nugent to connect on a 54-yard field goal is asking a lot. There were missed opportunities, because of interceptions, so we’ll never know. But overall, with Dalton on the sideline with a fractured thumb, they performed as well as could be expected.
[Feature Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]