The Bengals lost. People wrote about them. Here's the best of what was written....
There are many reasons Ben Roethlisberger gets a special kick out of tormenting the Bengals here. Paul Brown Stadium is 40 miles southeast on U.S. 27 from Oxford, Ohio, where he played his college ball at Miami of Ohio. It is 160 miles south on I-75 from Findlay, Ohio, his hometown. The game often means a lot in the AFC North Division race. First place tends to be at stake.
But there’s another reason Roethlisberger loves beating the Bengals.
Don’t underestimate the sight of No. 55 in the Bengals jersey.
That, as much as anything, has motivated Roethlisberger to a 15-2 record here -- including playoffs – with the latest win coming Sunday, 28-21, when he led the winning touchdown drive in the final 1:12.
Roethlisberger’s dislike for Burfict came through loud and clear when he told of the aftermath of Burfict temporarily knocking Antonio Brown out of the game with an elbow to the head early in the third quarter. Burfict wasn’t penalized for the hit but still could be fined by the NFL office.
“He hits A.B., then, literally, as I am under center for the next play, he points at JuJu and says, ‘You’re next,’ ” Roethlisberger said. “How do you allow that stuff?”
Carlos Dunlap was the last Bengals player to talk in the locker room following Sunday’s 28-21 loss to the Steelers, so he had plenty of time to prepare what to say.
And he couldn’t wait to say it.
“Y’all picked a good day to talk to me,” Dunlap told reporters as they approached while he was finishing dressing.
And he couldn’t have asked for a better opening question: What was the deciding factor in the way you guys lost to the Steelers?
“Insanity,” Dunlap said. “Insanity is when you keep doing a repeated thing over and over and expecting different results.”
But when pressed about what the Bengals did that was the same, Dunlap said, “You figure it out.”
It wouldn't be a Steelers-Bengals clash without the requisite Vontaze Burfict shenanigans. The trouble-prone linebacker opened the festivities with a batch of fresh trash talk for Ben Roethlisberger, breaking up a third-down shovel pass on the opening drive. What Steelers fans will remember, though, was a forearm shiver delivered to the head of Antonio Brown in the third quarter. Although Burfict was not penalized, he sent not only Brown but also Bengals safety Jessie Bates to the sideline with the hit. Should the league opt to review that play, Burfict could be facing punishment.
It didn’t help that the typically physical contest appeared to take its toll on the Bengals more than it did the Steelers. The Bengals first lost linebacker Nick Vigil, then cornerback Darqueze Dennard was declared out. They lost starting safety Shawn Williams to a concussion as well.
That’s why next week has all the makings of a letdown, and it could reshape the course of the Bengals’ season. The Bengals will travel to play the Kansas City Chiefs in prime time, potentially down several starters. The Bengals were embarrassed at home last year by the lowly Bears one week after an emotional game against Pittsburgh that left them without several starters against Chicago.
A promising 4-1 start could quickly turn into 4-3 if the Bengals can’t regroup quickly. But after losing yet another heartbreaker, it's certainly a tall task.
The Bengals have shown they have the fortitude early in the season to win challenging games, but this is their first true test of adversity. It will be interesting to see how they respond.
Where else would Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers get back to looking like their old selves but in Cincinnati? Entering Sunday, Pittsburgh had won its past five games at Paul Brown Stadium with an undefeated streak dating back to 2013. In his 16 career trips to Cincinnati, Roethlisberger walked away with wins in 14 of them.
It’s been no secret the Steelers have struggled on and off the field this season. Entering Sunday they didn’t have a win against a team with a winning record. Each week seems to bring a new controversy surrounding Antonio Brown. Le’Veon Bell has talked to ESPN more recently than he has anyone within Steelers’ management.
And so the 2-2-1 Steelers squared off with their division rivals in desperate need of a win versus a quality opponent to get their season back on track, and Pittsburgh topped Cincinnati 28-21 on a last-minute Antonio Brown touchdown. In a game where Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and co had the opportunity to make a statement, the team instead showed us the same ol’ Bengals.
The game-deciding touchdown in Cincinnati from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown seemed to be sprung by a pick from Steelers receiver Eli Rogers on Bengals cornerback Tony McRae. The officials, and the senior V.P. of officiating, didn’t see it that way.
Al Riveron explained in a video posted on Sunday evening that the league believes McRae initiated contact with Rogers within a yard of the line of scrimmage. This allows Rogers to run into and through the contact, pushing McRae down the field and, as a practical matter, allowing Brown to cut behind and to the inside of Rogers.
Reasonable minds could view the visual evidence differently, interpreting the contact as being initiated by Rogers not McRae, with McRae trying to fight through Rogers to get to Brown.
If offensive pass interference had been called on Rogers, the ball would have been moved from the Cincinnati 31 to the Cincinnati 41, with 10 seconds left. If the Steelers had gotten no closer, Chris Boswell would have had a 58-yard field goal attempt for the win. Given that Boswell already has missed six kicks this year, it would have been an interesting attempt, to say the least.
After chasing the Steelers' receivers around for three quarters, the Bengals defense basically looked tired in the fourth quarter. The Steelers beating the Bengals in dramatic fashion happens so often that Brown was expecting to win after Cincinnati took a one-point lead on a late touchdown pass by Andy Dalton.
"We've been in that situation a lot, and I knew we were going to do it," Brown said.
The Bengals' fourth-quarter meltdown overshadowed another impressive late drive by Dalton. Two weeks after throwing a touchdown pass with seven seconds left to beat the Falcons, Dalton engineered a 75-yard drive that led to a Joe Mixon touchdown run with just 1:18 left. Of course, in the end that touchdown meant nothing, kind of like the Bengals' 4-1 start will end up meaning nothing if they can't win big games.
The Bengals had a chance to get a Steelers-sized monkey off their back on Sunday, but they couldn't do it, and things aren't going to get any easier next week when they travel to Kansas City for a Sunday night game. The Bengals are 0-6 over the past 10 years on Sunday Night Football.
It was as quiet a performance from Geno Atkins as you are ever likely to see. He has produced some of the best football in his career against the Steelers in the past, but he was subdued in the passing game and shut out against the run with zero stops for the first time against the Steelers since 2014.
Missed tackles plagued the Bengals’ defensive performance, especially from their back seven by the likes of Shawn Williams and Vontaze Burfict. The misses allowed Conner to build up a head of steam and extend plays and allowed Vance McDonald rumble for extra yards after the catch consistently.
Two veteran Bengals defenders expressed frustration in completely different ways Sunday after yet another loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But both Carlos Dunlap and Dre Kirkpatrick agreed, following the 28-21 loss at Paul Brown Stadium, about which is the better team.
"They ain't better than us. Period," said Kirkpatrick, the seventh-year cornerback.
Dunlap, the ninth-year defensive end, said, "the eye in the sky don't lie," when asked if he felt the inferior team scored the most points.
That adds to the annoyance, resentment and bad taste regarding the Bengals' seven-game losing streak to their AFC North division rival that will remain at least until a December rematch.
"Only thing is frustrating is that we lost to Pittsburgh," Dunlap said. "They didn't beat us, in my opinion."
If the Bengals have to play backups in the secondary, and there will be no pass rush, and they’ll get pushed around when opposing offenses run the ball, then not only will next week’s trip to Kansas City yield another loss, but a season that’s held so much promise will never realize its potential.
Oh, and they’ll lose to the Steelers in the rematch.
Bengals/Steelers games often come down to which team – usually, the Steelers – imposes itself physically on the other. If there was one area where you might have assumed the Bengals would be able to hold their own, it was with a defensive line that before the season seemed so imposing. But on a day in which the Bengals did almost enough things to finally turn the tables on their long-time tormentors, what was supposed to be their biggest strength ended up being a major weakness.
(Photo: Getty Images)