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Steelers Suffer Offensive Letdown in 18-12 Setback to Bengals


That’s about the only way to describe Sunday’s somewhat stunning 18-12 setback to the Bengals Sunday at home that gives Cincy the clear path to winning the AFC North with a 7-2 record. The Steelers, who were held to four field goals on the day, fall to 6-3.

It’s the first time since 1998 that Cincy has swept the Steelers. The Bengals came hard after Ben Roethlisberger all day, and held the high powered Pittsburgh offense in check to the tune of just 226 yards. Roethlisberger was 20-for-40 for just 174 yards with a pick, and he was sacked four times, but hurried and under pressure all day.

The Steelers did have a last chance down 18-12, as they had four shots to get a drive going, but instead threw four times, all incomplete, including a fourth down play where Roethlisberger was under pressure and never had a shot to complete a pass.

Cincinnati didn’t light it up on offense, but did enough. They had 218 yards, and Carson Palmer could have been picked off no less than four times, but the Steelers defensive backs were unable to make a play. Palmer was 18-for-30 for 178 yards.

The only touchdown the whole day was a Bernard Scott 96-yard kickoff return for a score that gave Cincy a 6-3 lead with 4:26 to play in the first quarter. The special teams were unable to get a handle on Scott, who cut through the Steelers for the only six of the day.

Shayne Graham was the rest of the Cincy offense, kicking four field goals, including a 43 yarder with 1:56 left to force the Steelers to go for 7, which in the end wasn’t even close as they didn’t even get a first down.

Jeff Reed was the entire day of offense for the Steelers, kicking four field goals. Otherwise, four trips to the end zone were useless. The wide outs couldn’t catch when it got to them, and the offensive line had probably their worst game of 09 trying to protect Ben.

The now 6-3 Steelers will be in Kansas City next week.

Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.



  1. DrGeorge

    November 15, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    See the last paragraph of my comment on the win at Denver (“Denver Delight”) below regarding the keys to beating Cincy. In today’s game, each of the Steelers’ deficiencies identified in my prior rants were on display again, and the lack of a consistent running game is far and away the most important. In fact, Cincy beat the Steelers at their own game, running the ball effectively, even without C. Benson, and dominated all three phases of the game.

    Fatigue (due to the short week after Denver) certainly played a major part in the exhaustion of the Steelers’ defense late in the game and the inability of the offense to get in synch. The loss of Polamalu hurt. The gaffes on special teams — allowing a 95 yard return and consistently giving Cincy excellent field position — did not help either. Even the best receiving corps in the NFL and one of the best QBs could not compensate for these failings. But a strong running game might have compensated for all of them, for the reasons I delineated last week.

    Arians unwillingness to commit to the run makes the Steelers one dimensional, and when the passing game is out of synch and flat, as it was today, the team has no effective response. With a strong running game, we could maintain possession, control the clock, rest our defense, and just maybe overcome our other deficiencies. A solid running game is that critical.

    Even teams that have won consistently with the spread offense (Arians’ pass happy strategic preference) have also had an ability to run the ball when needed. It is the defining quality of all championship teams. Arians seems to have missed that point.

    Noll and Cowher knew the strategic value of a solid running game and committed to the run. Tomlin and Arians have neglected the running game, disdained it in fact, and seem ignorant of its strategic importance.

    With an easy schedule ahead of them, the Steelers are likely to still make the playoffs this year. Ben and the receivers will carry the team, along with a decimated, but talented, defense. But unless the coaches fix the running game and commit to the run, the team will continue to struggle and will exit the playoffs early.

  2. Mike

    November 15, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    The steelers had the ball for 9 plays in goal-to-go situations in the first half. Arians play selection: 8 passes and 1 run. The run was a finess stretch play out of a passing formation. Brilliant Arians, just brilliant. I don’t understand the disdain for the run by Arians. He tolerates the run to a certain extent i guess but he simply will not embrace a power running game. Its not that i think we should go back to the I-formation and smash away all game. However, in the redzone and especially goal-to-go is classic situational football that Tomlin always talks about. In those situations we were completely out prepared.

    The offensive coaches and Tomlin sat in meetings all week and prepared for goal to go situations. I am positive they strategized for hours about what they are going to do when they got to the redzone and then what they were going to do 1st and goal at the 8. The best they could do i guess were those 9 plays.

    I would pay large sums of money to sit in on those meetings to hear what they are talking about. To hear the reasoning behind their choice of plays. Its not like they were caught off guard being in goal-to-go. Arians has an entire portion of his play sheet devoted to goal to go plays. Those nine are the best he had. What i more startling is that Tomlin gave the green light on all nine of those.

    Games are invariably won or lost with preperation in meetings during the week. This game was lost, in my opinion, on Tuesday when they installed the game plan. Tomlin talks about accountability. Well he is accountable for the preperation of players AND coaches. Arians was not prepared.

  3. Dan Kreider's ghost

    November 15, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    How’s that running game treating you Arians?

  4. mark

    November 15, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    I agree with both Mike and DrGeorge. I put the blame directly on the neglected running game and the eternally awful special teams. Can anyone explain how this coverage unit is so bad for this long? I have also had it with this Stefan Logan experiment. Sure he is fast, but he runs sideways more than ahead and thats a lot of running to only get to the 15 yard line. He keeps taking the ball out of the endzone and then doesn’t reach the 20! Enough of this now too. I also saw him run by the ball carrier on the TD return, so he has overstayed his welcome in my opinion.
    Ben picked a bad day to be so off. He played like he stayed out too late last night. Without the running game that he SHOULD have had, Ben looked as out of sync as everyone. When Ben is bad, so goes the offense. It was a bad game all around but Arians and Tomlin’s neglect of the running game and passing all the time against a secondary that is carrying their team, it was a recipe for disaster. They got what they deserved today. Special teams needs a coaching change. Period. Their play actually lost them the game today and in 1993 we had the same problem until Cowher finally lost a playoff game because of Special Teams and fired John Guy. Is Tomlin going to wait that long?

  5. Jim

    November 15, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    WHO-DEY steeler nation…maybe next time!

  6. Bo

    November 16, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Gosh awful.

    I’m getting a little tired of Tomlin saying that the team is “in development.” He inherited a Super Bowl Team for crying out loud. And when he won another SB with essentially the same team and gets some additional talent in the off season they’re still “in development?” They should be in the third stage rocket phase.

    How about fixing the special team’s problem? The stats are awful. Make serious adjustments. Maybe they should put Arians on the problem since he likes the ball in the air so much.

    And on the topic of Arians – maybe he lacked confidence in our offensive line with so many defenders on the other side of the line all day. OK, how about using more quick dump plays in the flat? Four words: Moore, Miller, Spaeth, Ward – in that order.

  7. Arian Nation

    November 16, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Bengals fans love Bruce Arians. The tough, physical running game is a thing of the past. The passing game is where it is at now. Keep up the good work.

  8. jay

    November 16, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    I was at the game, first game actually…spent a lot of money this weekend with my wife just to see them lose…she had more fun than me…now, about the game…Everyone has salient comments (although I did have to break out my pompous to english dictionary to understand Dr. George…and I’m in a masters program for sports management for cryin’ out loud…sheesh!), anyway, I digress….THIS LEAGUE-WIDE FASCINATION WITH PASS-HAPPY FOOTBALL PLAIN AND SIMPLY SUCKS, FUCKING PERIOD!!!!!! I’m ashamed to see that OUR Steelers have jumped on board with this nonsense type of offense….#^%$ Bruce Arians! You win by playing smashmouth and defense….I don’t care how antiquated that sounds! It’s like pussy football or something, dinks and dunks, deep down, the field…I thought Bruce Arians, like Bill Belicheat, was a joke in Cleveland (isn’t everyone?) but as soon as the Colts’ Manning and Belicheat’s Brady do it, now everyone does it? or at least tries to?!?!?!?! Don’t forget two things, people, there’s only one Manning, as much as I find him to be a pouting, fragile, cliche, he is good; no one has figured him out yet AND New England CHEATED!!!!!! There’s no reason to copy this ridiculous, overrated, boring, deflating, gimmicky nonsense PASS BULLSHIT!!!! Mendenhall is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and you only give it to him 13 times….WHEN are we going to get an offensive coordinator who actually enhances our HIGH round picks on offense….Whisenhunt was too conservative and Arians is way too pass happy….Balance!!!! Now, I know we tend to overreact as Steelers fans but this was big and could’ve been a season defining loss….Yeah Reed should’ve made a better than futile attempt at the tackle, yeah the special teams coverage units should not have let it gotten that far (3 times now) and yeah, ben should’ve played WITHOUT his head up his ass as well as the o-line but Bruce Arians, you sir are a joke and let me just say that anyone can say, “Well what about when the Steelers win by passing!” yeah, ya know what I say when that happens…I say, “Phew, we won on DEFENSE and DESPITE the fact we threw the ball all over the field!” I can’t wait until Reed and Arians are no longer a part of this franchise and I can’t wait until Tomlin grows some balls and puts his foot down and demands a running attack! Maybe then I’ll come back and drop $1200 on tickets, hotel room and food which I don’t have…Thanks, Steelers for making my stay SUCK….Beautiful city though especially from the top of mount washington….Oh, P.S. I live just 50 miles north of Philly in Allentown and am mercilessly exposed to another Arians-type of asshole in Andy Reid who loves to throw the ball and look where it’s gotten the Eagles (perennially bailed out by their defense much like us and sporadic offensive outputs in spurts; sometimes explosive, sometimes futile but never balanced much like what we’re becoming)!

  9. mark

    November 16, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Jay, balance is a thing of beauty in football. Our defense tends to show more of it than our offense over the past few seasons. I think one problem with the current Steelers is that Ben LOVES Arians. Of course he would, Arians has given Ben the keys to a Ferrari. We know the offense has pass play studs. I mean, Holmes,Ward, Miller, Moore and now Wallace can all make plays. Tomlin is not about to upset the apple-cart. In this case, the Ben-Bruce relationship. A happy franchise QB, is a productive franchise QB. Until there is a disaster in Pittsburgh (6-10) season or Arians gets a head coaching job. I dont think much is going to change. Like it or not, the NFL is a pass happy league now.By embracing it, the Steelers have delivered 1 Super Bowl and are still contenders for another. When they are not contenders, maybe there will be change. However,what does needs to change immediately is the special teams play. Horrid is the only word.

    • DrGeorge

      November 19, 2009 at 10:23 am

      Mark, your analysis is right on. Take a look at the article today featuring an interview with Kemoeatu, who hopes the Steelers begin running more. Apparently, the offensive focus in practice is on the run this week. The rushing attempts against Cincy were only slightly below the 60% pass v. 40% NFL average. But rushing statistics can be misleading. The number of rushes is less significant than whether a team can rush when it needs to — in the red zone and on short yardage conversions. The Steelers have not demonstrated that ability to date, and mere statistics — Mendy running for 155 yards, for example — is really irrelevant.

      A good team can run the ball into the end zone from inside the ten. The Steelers have more than enough O-line talent to do that, but the coaching staff is simply not committed to the run. And without the will to run effectively, on demand, the whole offense suffers.

      And Jay, I regret that my inept attempts at precise expression seem pompous in print. It’s been decades since I actually played the game and revelled in the hairy-chested banter of the gridiron. In my day, not all players dragged their knuckles on the ground. In future, I’ll try to remember to rant wildly on occasion and throw in a vulgarism, cliche, or vituperative remark, just now and then, to edify the locker room set.

  10. mark

    November 19, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Hi DrGeorge.I have to say that I would like to see the Steelers ,from inside the ten, try running on all 3 downs against the Chiefs if they have the opportunity. I’m serious, I think it would bolster confidences and give teams something to think about. No doubt the team has the talent up front and in the backfield to accomplish this. I say move the chains on the ground and lets see how much that opens the passing game up. We have been down this road before. I believe that had the Steelers run MORE against the Bengals, regardless of complete success, the passing game would have eventually gotten into sync. That was what was missing last Sunday. A flow of successes.Yes, the Bengals defense had something to do with that. But, continuing to throw at a team that is doing well stopping the pass, was a strategic mistake. RUN! Also, I am tired of hearing that the Bengals “beat the Steelers at their own game” Where and when did they do that exactly? They didn’t “pound” the Steelers with the run, they certainly did not have gaudy pass or run stats. So, other than a kick return, what exactly did the Bengals do better than the Steelers? Steelers had more 1st downs, time of possession,I am sure that passing and rushing stats were similar. So, what was it?

  11. Jay

    November 20, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Dr. George,
    I know all the words too, brah, have an English degree and yada, yada, yada…Okay, you don’t need to edify anything, sometimes you need to know the rules before you break them (referencing grammar here. You obviously know the rules (of grammar and lexicon/vocab.)so break away, McMannus (Usual Suspects reference)…otherwise shut up and talk football!

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