Pittsburgh's offense was nearly nonexistent in the second half of the game and Cincinnati took control and earned its first win of the season.
Check out our Week 2 grades for the Pittsburgh Steelers following their second loss of the season.
Pass Offense: The third quarter was a complete disaster for the Steelers offense. Pittsburgh finished with minus-2 total yards and completed just three passes for seven yards. Ben did hit Antonio Brown on a 33-yard pass, but it was called back on a questionable tripping call on Marcus Gilbert.
Roethlisberger managed to put one last drive together as time wound down in the fourth quarter, but a ball off Jerricho Cotchery’s hands landed in Reggie Nelson’s lap, essentially ending the game for the Steelers.
The numbers aren't great, but they won’t reveal the beating Big Ben took. He was sacked only once, but he was hit on nearly every pass play, and his offensive linemen may have spent more time on the ground than on their feet.
Run Offense: It’s difficult to provide any analysis on the Steelers' second-half run game considering they basically abandoned it in the third and fourth quarters.
Pittsburgh ran the ball just two times in the second half for just two yards. I understand that the Steelers weren’t exactly blowing the doors off anybody, but you have to maintain some kind of balance, right?
Run Defense: The Steelers certainly didn’t put their best foot forward when trying to stop the Bengals running game. Either that, or they’re showing their age.
Pittsburgh showed pretty clearly that it couldn’t keep up with the speed of rookie Giovanni Bernard. The Steelers also did a terrible job of getting off the field on third down, especially at the end of the game.
The Bengals finished the game with 127 yards on 34 carries, averaging 3.7 yards per tote. It’s the second straight week they’ve given up over 100 yards on the ground.
Pass Defense: It was like watching a completely different offense in the second half for the Bengals. And that other Bengals offense picked the Steelers secondary apart.
After missing on 16 passes in the first half, Andy Dalton was surgical in the second act, hitting nine of his 13 throws while carving up the Steelers. Cincinnati switched to a shorter passing game and Dalton responded well. The Bengals held the ball for most of the second half.
Ike Taylor did a fantastic job on A.J. Green on Monday night, but the rest of the team wasn’t up to snuff.
Special Teams: This was actually the best I’ve seen from the Steelers special teams unit in a long time. Zoltan Mesko was active and punted the ball very well, while the usually sparse coverage behind him was on point.
Coaching: To start with Mike Tomlin, he has a lot of coaching to do and changes to make. His team proved to be mentally weak and undisciplined on the field. That doesn’t bode well for a team that isn’t the most talented either.
Todd Haley’s offensive play-calling in the second half was borderline criminal. He ran the ball only two times in the second half and did little to create any kind of balance for his offense. The terrible second half for the Steelers offense is directly related to Haley’s play-calling.
Pass Offense: Early in the half, the pass protection did not look good, and it seemed like the Steelers were trying to force something deep that wasn’t there. Their only big play, a 34-yard reception by David Paulson, ended in a fumble that led to a Bengals touchdown.
But on the team’s final drive of the half, it switched back to a more quick-hitter offense, and Ben Roethlisberger looked a lot more comfortable. The Steelers went on a five-play, 65-yard drive (all passes) that gave them their first touchdown of the game.
Run Offense: Well, they’ve already run the ball better in this half than they did all last week, so there’s that. Still, the Steelers run game needs improvement.
Pittsburgh has featured Felix Jones in the first half, giving him the ball 10 times for 37 yards. As a team, they’ve run for 42 yards in the half. Those numbers still need some improvement, but it’s a start.
Run Defense: Certainly a far cry from what this run defense did last week, it’s pretty clear in the first half that the Steelers already miss Larry Foote. Both Vince Williams and Kion Wilson have rotated in at the position, but the Bengals, especially Giovanni Bernard, have gashed the Steelers thus far.
In the half, Cincinnati has run the ball 10 times for 53 yards and a touchdown. Simple math tells you that the Steelers need to do a better job against the run in the second half.
Pass Defense: Truly, it wasn’t as bad a half for the Steelers pass D as the numbers might indicate. Andy Dalton threw for 165 yards in the first half but completed just half of his 32 attempts. Also, one strike on a blown coverage to Tyler Eifert accounted for 61 of the yards.
The Steelers have done a much better job of getting off the field on third downs in Week 2, however. Pittsburgh’s pass rush on third downs has been terrific and, although it doesn’t have a sack, Dalton has taken a few hits and it has forced some poor throws.
Special Teams: It’s been a very good half for the Steelers’ special teams unit. Felix Jones opened the game with a nice kick return, and Antonio Brown added a very good punt return later in the first quarter.
Punter Zoltan Mesko has been sharp, and the coverage behind him has been spot on.
Coaching: I was very confused by offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s decisions early in this game. He made it painfully clear he wanted to establish the run early, at all costs. When that didn’t work, he followed it up with the offense trying to work the ball deep.
He settled in on the final two drives of the half, going back to the short crossing game, and it led to a touchdown. But Haley can’t get fancy here. Do what works best.