By Jeremy Hritz
That was just brutal. The Steelers lost to the Cincinnati Bengals 24-10, their third consecutive home loss dating back to 2020. The Steelers played poorly across the board, looked uninspired, and their much-revered quarterback appeared defeated, as he was once again harried and hurried by an opposing defense. There are many concerns regarding this unit that the Steelers need to address and expediently if they are able to put this team in a position to compete. Things need to improve and fast, as the Steelers have to get ready for another tough contest next week against the high-powered Green Bay Packers. And in case you missed it, the Steelers sack record of consecutive games with a sack came to an end. Just a bad day all around.
Najee Harris is getting better with every game, and is showing he can be the player the Steelers drafted him to be. Today, he flashed in both the rushing receiving game, and gave some life to what has been a listless rushing attack. It is exciting to think about what Harris will be doing by the end of the season, as he is a player who continues to show there is more meat on the bone on a weekly basis. What has been most impressive about Harris is his physicality and leg drive, and unwillingness to give up on a run, not matter how bleak the outcome appears. He is the reason why you should be excited and optimistic about this Steelers team.
Pittsburgh Pat Freiermuth
Sure, it was only for 4 yards, but Pittsburgh Pat Freiermuth made a massive play when it was sorely needed, converting a 15-play, 86 yard drive for 6 points. Look for Freiermuth’s role and contributions to continue to expand as Ben gets more comfortable with him as a receiver.
Terrell Edmunds showed excellent awareness on a Minkah Fitzpatrick tip, pulling in an interception, and following it up with a decent return. The biggest knock on Edmunds in previous seasons has been his inability to make splash plays, but he did so today in a big way.
Arthur Maulet had an outstanding tackle for loss on second down and demonstrated excellent awareness to diagnose the play and then the skill and ability to tackle the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage.
While a small sample size, Cody White showed reliability and dependability in making big catches to sustain drives. Probably not enough to have him dress every game, but definitely encouraging.
Whether it was the result of no pass rush, or poor coverage across the board, the Steelers secondary was flat-out bad today. Not much else that needs to be said.
I’m not sure what is going on with Ben Roethlisberger, but he was timid, uncertain, hesitant, and careless in his performance today. He is unwilling to throw the football over the middle of the field, and even when he has time to set up and thrown, he is being tentative and making timely decisions to make throws and avoid sacks. His interceptions were awful, and he nearly threw a third on an awkward pass to Derek Watt. Much of his yardage came in junk time, as the Steelers were trying to get back in the game, which is meaningless. Roethlisberger has to be able to make plays earlier in contests, and not when the game is out of hand. The excusal for him will be his injury and the line play, but at some point, you have to start questioning whether or not he can truly help this team.
James Pierre is in his first year of getting significant reps on the outside as a starting corner, so it is to be expected that he is going to give up big plays; however, allowing a 34-yard touchdown pass with less than a minute left after your offense scored a momentum invigorating touchdown, is purely unacceptable. Pierre has to show better awareness and coverage, in addition to hustle, as it appeared he gave up on the receiver as the ball was coming in.
There were moments of decent, but there were more moments of frustration that resulted in plays for losses. While we finally saw signs of life in the running game, there were multiple big runs that were negated by holding penalties, and the unit still failed to keep Roethlisberger upright. Not going to win many games when you can’t run block and pass protect.
The injuries caught up with the defense, and it showed, as the Bengals offensive line man-handled the defensive line, and opened up rushing lanes. On top of that, the Steelers missed too many tackles, and allowing the Bengals to control the tempo of the game. The Steelers need Stephon Tuitt, TJ Watt, and Alex Highsmith back in a hurry, as this defense has hemorrhaged too many yards the last two weeks.
I never thought I’d be putting him on the Needs Improvement list this season, but not only did Melvin Ingram fail to get home today, he missed tackles, and was often seen making tackles several yards down field on runs, instead of blowing things up at the line of scrimmage. It was Ingram’s missed tackle that resulted in a 17-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd from Burrow. Ingram has to be better in what he is being asked to do as the third OLB.
Missed field goal to give some life to the Steelers in the 3rd quarter. Everything that could go wrong today, went wrong, including the always automatic Chris Boswell whiffing.
Just too unreliable. Trade or cut. Time to move on, as he consistently comes up short in big situations, and causes more trouble for this offense than he does help it. Dropped TD pass in late 4th quarter is just unacceptable. Why wasn’t Freiermuth on the field?
No rhythm whatsoever on offense, and still backyard-Ben ball. Excessive, unnecessary penalties that came at the worst moments. A failure to live up to the next man up standard that is so often boasted in Pittsburgh. Kicking a field goal in the 4th quarter instead of going for it. Just a very bad product put out by this coaching staff against the Bengals, and no real growth from last week vs. the Raiders to this week.
Drops by Receivers
Too many drops across the board. OK, I’m going to stop here. Just too much bad…
I’m not overreacting to this loss, but there are serious issues offensively, starting with Roethlisberger and that offensive line, and defensively, the injuries are just proving to be too much. Without a consistent running game, Roethlisberger has to shoulder too much responsibility, and he isn’t showing he can handle that role. His turnovers were destructive, and he has to be much better in order to turn things around. We’ve seen games like we did today before, where Ben starts poorly, then throws for a ton of yards. While that may look respectable on a stat sheet, it means nothing in terms of competing for a championship. I said at the outset of this season that this team needed to play within a gameplan on offense and build a rhythm in order to protect Ben and to give this team a chance to win. We’ve seen nothing of the sort these last two weeks, and this team has to refocus their efforts on the offensive side of the football. This team needs to make Najee Harris the focal point of the offense, and build everything around him, as he is showing he is the one true offensive player on this team who can consistently move the football.