´ Steel Curtain Rising: Bengals Best Steelers 13-10 at Heinz Field

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Bengals Best Steelers 13-10 at Heinz Field

Obviously, not our day and, thus, not our year.” – Mike Tomlin following the Bengals loss

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 campaign has been one riddled with ironies and the loss at Heinz Field to the Cincinnati Bengals added yet another layer.

An inability to sack the quarterback and force turnovers plagued the Steelers defense all season.
  • Against the Bengals the Steelers intercepted two balls and forced and recovered one fumble, and sacked Andy Dalton six times
Yet... 
  • ...the Steelers offense scored zero points off of those turnovers
The Steelers secondary was brutalized first against San Diego and then again against Dallas
  • Against the Bengals, the secondary held Cincinnati to 4-15 on third down conversions
Yet...
  • ...when Andy Dalton needed to complete a pass, he did
All season long, ball security and drops have plagued Young Money at critical points in crucial games
  • Against the Bengals, the wide receivers committed no turnovers, made some nice catches and drops were a non-issue
 Yet...
  • ...too often they never got a chance to work their magic because Ben Roethlsiberger simply lacked time
And what 2012 Steelers loss would be complete without a special teams snafu? Shaun Suisham has been impeccable all year, yet missed another field goal beyond his range, and shanked an absolute gimmie because of – get this – a bad snap.

Steelers Start Hungry, Focused But…

You can describe the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers with a single word.  “Inconsistent.”

To be truly inconsistent implies highs as well as lows, and today certainly qualified for the Steelers, because it may have been one of their better defensive performances.

Against San Diego the Steelers defense looked dazed, confused and at times appeared to play almost in slow motion. Against Dallas, the Steelers defense seemed over matched for much of the game (although the unit did ‘turn it up’ fairly well in the second half.)
  •  None of that was apparent today. In the words of my wife “this is a different team.”
 And it was.
  • At times the Steelers run defense has been suspect this season. Cincinnati totaled 14 yards rushing.
Series after series ended in frustration for the Steelers offense, but the Steelers defense never batted an eye. Yes, Andy Dalton made a number of key throws and connected with A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham, but neither of those men sniffed the end zone.

Cincinnati offense made enough noise to pin the Steelers deep into their own territory, their total offensive output for the day was six points. 
  • Normally in the NFL you win when you hold your opponent’s offense to six points.
But the 2012 Steelers, ever creative in their endeavors to find new ways to self-sabotage, succeeded yet again.

It’s (Not Quite) About the Quarterback, Stupid

The loss to the Bengals, as all losses are, was a team effort.

If Greg Warren, Drew Bulter, and Shaun Suisham keep it together long enough to make a 24 yard field goal, this game likely goes into overtime.

Rashard Mendenhall and to a lesser extent Jonathan Dwyer ran strong in the first half. Cincinnati made the adjustments necessary to shut down the Steelers running game in the second half.

The Steelers inability to rush the ball in the second half forced them to rely in Ben Roethlisberger and his receivers. Antonio Brown atoned in part for his awful performance last week by burning his man on the Steelers only touchdown of the day.
  • Yet that burst was the exception and not the rule.
 The Steelers passing game might look respectable on the stat sheet, but in truth it struggled all day. They only managed to convert two third downs, and Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 4 times in the second half.

It’s important to get all of these very relevant points out into the open, so that the record reflects that no one man was responsible for the Steelers loss. 
  • But one man must bear extra responsibility for the loss, and that man would be Ben Roethlisberger.
Cincinnati’s only touchdown came when Ben Roethlisberger attempted to force the ball to Health Miller deep in his own territory. Leon Hall wasn’t fooled for a moment and scored easily.

Ben Roethlisberger waited until the 4th quarter for his next self inflicted wound, when he forced a pass to Mike Wallace that he didn’t have to force, setting up the Bengals for a field goal.

Steel Curtain Rising has long argued that Ben Roethlisberger gets short shift from the national media. Yet, if he wants to be regarded as a truly elite quarterback, he needs to stop throwing these stupid interceptions.

Ben’s ability to improvise and make something out of nothing is legendary, and no serious Steelers fan should want to take that away from him. But sometimes he tries to take too much upon himself. He did that today, and it cost the Steelers.

And that adds additional irony to the Steelers 2012 season. Arguably Ben Roethlisberger has played some of his best ball during stretches of 2012. Along with Heath Miller and Lawrence Timmons, Roethlisberger has been one few consistent performers game in and game out this year.

But in this must win game vs. the Bengals Roethlisberger’s number came up, and it was his turn to fall short with the playoffs on the line. Unfortunate and frustrating, but that’s reality in Steelers Nation this Christmas Eve.

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