3 Takeaways from Steelers' Week 3 Loss
Despite playing at home against teams that weren't in the playoffs last year the past two weeks, the Steelers have now fallen to 1-2. After losing to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 2, Pittsburgh couldn't bounce back in Week 3, suffering a 24-10 defeat to the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.
The Bengals never trailed and had a 17-point lead going into the fourth quarter. The Steelers couldn't mount a comeback, as their only second-half points came on a 26-yard field goal by Chris Boswell with eight minutes, nine seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Here are three takeaways from Pittsburgh's Week 3 loss.
Roethlisberger Still Having Trouble Getting Offense Going
The Steelers' offense hasn't been able to get going this season. That's why they have scored only 27 points over their past two games. And a big reason for Pittsburgh's offensive struggles has been the lackluster play of veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Although Roethlisberger passed for a season-high 318 yards against the Bengals, it took him 58 attempts to get there. He threw a pair of interceptions and had only one touchdown, as he has yet to have multiple passing scores in a game this year.
It didn't help that Pittsburgh couldn't get its running game going (Najee Harris had 14 carries for 40 yards) or that Roethlisberger was sacked four times. But the 39-year-old QB shouldered the blame after the latest disappointing showing for the offense.
"I’m not going to point fingers at anybody else and going to point the thumb at myself," Roethlisberger said, per Will Graves of the Associated Press. "I’m trying to figure it out. I’m a little stumped by it. A little frustrated by it. I hate losing. We’re not going to quit and give up."
Despite Roethlisberger's struggles, he may still be the Steelers' best option, considering their backups are Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins and they don't have a young prospect waiting in the wings. But if Roethlisberger keeps trending in this direction, it could be a sign that he's nearing the end of his career.
Defense Keeps Giving Up Big Plays at Worst Times
There's never a good time to give up a big play. But the Steelers' defense has been breaking down at some of the worst possible times in recent weeks.
On Sunday, Pittsburgh tied the game at 7-7 when Roethlisberger threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Pat Freiermuth with 1:04 to go until halftime. Then, the Bengals immediately took the lead back, as Joe Burrow connected with rookie Ja'Marr Chase on a 34-yard touchdown with 37 seconds to go in the opening half.
That play gave Cincinnati momentum, which it carried over into a dominant second half. A similar play happened the week before, when the Las Vegas Raiders put away the Steelers with a 61-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr to Henry Ruggs III with 9:35 to go in the fourth quarter.
"You can't give up deep balls or big plays, particularly in situational [football]," Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin said, per Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I think that's two weeks in a row we gave up a deep ball in a significant moment. We're in two-minute ball and we gave up another one."
The Steelers' defense was missing some key players because of injuries, such as starting linebackers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Perhaps once they get healthier there will be better results, as this unit showed what it's capable of back in Week 1 in Buffalo.
Steelers Will Have Trouble Staying in AFC North Race
Last year, the Steelers got off to a hot start by winning their first 11 games. This season, they've lost twice in the first three weeks. And that has them in a much different place in the AFC North: last place.
The Bengals are 2-1, as are both the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. So the Steelers are alone at the bottom at 1-2. With the way things are going early, it could be difficult for Pittsburgh to overcome this tough start and work its way back up the standings.
None of the Steelers' next three opponents are easy—the Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks—and then they have a Week 7 bye. They also still have five divisional games to play, and the Ravens and Browns are both looking like playoff contenders again this year.
If Cincinnati is for real, then the AFC North will be an even more competitive division. But it may end up being a three-team race if Pittsburgh's recent struggles continue. It's a long season, so the Steelers have time to get back on track, but things aren't looking great right now.