Steelers tumble to Bengals
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger chose to come back for his 18th season, believing the Pittsburgh Steelers still had the ability to contend for a Super Bowl even without so many of the faces that protected him so capably for so long.
The 39-year-old insists he doesn’t have buyer’s remorse, though the optimism that came easily during training camp is fading. The hits he’s absorbing are starting to pile up.
The losses too, the latest a baffling 24-10 setback against Cincinnati on Sunday in which the Steelers (1-2) hardly looked like a group close to figuring it out.
Not with an offense that draws penalties with alarming frequency and an injury-marred defense missing two of its top pass rushers.
No wonder coach Mike Tomlin made it a point to spread the blame around in the aftermath.
“There’s enough to go around and we take responsibility for that,” Tomlin said. “That’s what you do when you play losing football. And that’s what we did today.”
Something that rarely used to happen at Heinz Field and almost never when Cincinnati was on the other line of scrimmage. The Steelers had won 14 of 16 against the Bengals and hadn’t fallen to Cincinnati at home since 2015.
Yet they never led on an afternoon in which the Bengals looked younger and more dynamic offensively and more rugged and imposing defensively.
Roethlisberger’s numbers weren’t terrible. He completed 38 of 57 passes for 318 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Yet most of the yards and completions came with Pittsburgh desperately and futilely giving chase. He took four sacks, including two in which the protection was fine but he held on to the ball for far too long, allowing the Cincinnati pass rush to close in.
“There were coverage sacks today,” Roethlisberger said. “When you drop back and throw it 50-some times like we did today, those are going to happen. I thought the guys put up a good effort.”
Just not a clean or effective one. All five starting offensive linemen — left tackle Dan Moore Jr., left guard Kevin Dotson, center Kendrick Green, right guard Trai Turner and right tackle Chuks Okorafor — drew at least one of Pittsburgh’s 10 penalties.
Tomlin called the mistakes “drive killers.” They may prove far more lethal than that. Pittsburgh finds itself heading to October in last place in the AFC North. And that’s after a pair of home games against two non-playoff teams from a year ago.