I had to go way back into the archive to remember my format for writing up a Steelers loss. Here's what the research produced:
The Pittsburgh Steelers' special teams fails again and lets the Bengals' Bernard Scott return a first half kickoff for a touchdown. And yes, they let him do it. Just watch Jeff Reed run across the field only to go right past Scott without even an effort to tackle him.
The Steelers' overall defense. While no single player had an outstanding game, the unit only allowed 218 yards of total offense to the Bengals, who average 334.2 yards per game. No one on Cincinnati's offense had a great game, unless you argue that Carson Palmer had a good game just because he didn't turn it over.
Bruce Arians: This isn't really a new weakness, but one that has been overlooked during what was a five-game win steak. Arians has admitted to getting too greedy and looking for big plays when he shouldn't be. What worries me is that he hasn't learned. Arians took one of the NFL's most talented offenses and made it look like the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Will someone please fire this guy already?
- While Bruce Arian's play calling was atrocious in this game, pretty much the only offensive player who didn't have their worst game of the season was Mewelde Moore. Moore seems like the Hines Ward of the backfield. He isn't flashy but he gets the job done and does everything well.
- Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace need to work more together on their timing during the week. As another brilliant Steelers mind pointed out to me, even during their good games Big Ben doesn't appear to be able to hit Wallace in stride. Maybe Ben just doesn't have the right chemistry with Wallace yet or maybe he's continuously underestimates Wallace's speed. Either way they need to work together to overcome that.
- Wallace's disappearance in the game is understandable, but how do both Hines Ward and Heath Miller completely disappear for an entire game? The two combined for only 50 yards of offense. It's hard to believe the Bengals' defense, while much improved, was good enough to shut down both for an entire game.
- If the production, or lack thereof, isn't enough to make Steeler fans puke, the 80 yards rushing should be. Amazingly, despite the low total, the Steelers running backs averaged four yards per carry. That's not half bad. Why Bruce Arians only called 16 running plays?
- Only five of the 16 run plays were in the red zone during the Steelers' four appearances there. Sorry to keep asking rhetorical questions, but does that make any sense to anyone?
- It's also dumbfounding how bad the Steelers' kick coverage unit has been this season. They have allowed three kick returns for touchdowns this season. All of them have come at crucial times in games and have either cost, or come close to costing, the team a win.
- The Steelers defense is continuing to follow its season-long trend of shutting down running backs and deep passes, but giving up tons of short passes and intermediate passes, especially on third down. The conclusion seems to be that they'll take away big plays and the running game and pray the opposing QB isn't good enough to methodically pick apart the shorter coverage.
- Troy Polamalu usually makes the QB's task of picking apart the short coverage a lot harder. Just ask Kyle Orton and Kerry Collins. Too bad he doesn't have the same effect from the sidelines.
- Polamalu's injury aside, there should be no qualms about the Steelers defensive personnel, except for maybe William Gay. Gay has shown the ability to cover receivers and can tackle fairly well, but he's also been picked on a lot this season, particularly on curl routes and out routes. Hopefully he'll learn to jump those better.
- The other problem in the secondary is the stone hands of both Gay and Ike Taylor. Taylor's bad hands have been well documented throughout his career and Gay looks like he has the same issues.
What Steelers Fans Should Think
- Be upset at the Steelers poor special teams. Tomlin still has two special teams coaches on his staff. Clearly neither of them is very good at teaching kick coverage.
- Be disappointed in Stefan Logan, who looked like Darren Sproles during the preseason and looks completely average as both a kick and punt returner so far this season. Mike Wallace replaced him as a kick returner by the end of the game on Sunday.
- The Steelers are still a better team than the Bengals. Cincinnati won both games without Polamalu on the field and during two of the Steelers worst games offensively. Look for a repeat of 2005 if the two meet in the playoffs.
- Fans shouldn't, however, take the Bengals lightly. No one should. They have proven that they are a quality team in the NFL this year. The only thing they haven't proven is their ability to win in the playoffs. Time will tell if they can or not.