Doing this a little later than I usually do, in part because my immediate thoughts after the game were probably too profane to share on this forum. I'm guessing you can understand and relate. Here goes...
*This is a pick....
The guy who's in charge of the NFL's refs says the play shouldn't have been flagged for offensive pass interference, because, as Al Riveron says, Tony McRae initiated contact with Justin Hunter.
That, in my opinion, is a stretch.
It is not a stretch to say that Hunter continues his block as the ball is being thrown, which would've warranted a flag for OPI, sending Pittsburgh back to their 41, where, who am I kidding, they still would've found a way to win the game.
There were other calls, like the defensive holding flag thrown on Dre Kirkpatrick, plus McRae did a poor job of switching to the right guy to cover at the line of scrimmage, but that was a pick.
Also, when the look you're seeing as a coach is Tony McRae not switching to cover Antonio Brown, and you have a pair of timeouts left, how do you not use one?
*The Bengals' defensive front got its ass handed to them. Geno Atkins, a possible hall-of-fame player, had as quiet a game as I can remember, so too did most of his d-line mates. I wrote about this for The Athletic, but it was very, very sobering to watch the Bengals fail to apply any pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, and it was maddening watching Pittsburgh's blocking personnel create huge holes for James Connor.
*Eight of Bengals defensive starters had to leave the game for some sort of injury issue, with some returning to the field and others never to come back. The secondary is a mess. The D-line was dormant. Vontaze Burfict (more on him in a second) might face a punishment for this.
Seems like a really good time to go play the Chiefs on the road.
*The Vontaze Burfict act grew old a long time ago. I'm tired of talking about this guy, but again, here we are....
Not to excuse the 3984th cheap shot of Vontaze's career, but watching him continue to put himself in the NFL's crosshairs is a lot easier when he's actually making plays or offsetting his jackassery with actual contributions to the team. That wasn't the case against Pittsburgh. Aside from a near-interception, I barely noticed him, unless he was getting run over by both James Connor and Vance McDonald.
And he was, of course, a pure joy for the reporters to be around afterward.
*The Bengals scored too soon. Everyone in our section - regardless of team affiliation said the same thing, almost in unison, immediately after Joe Mixon scored to set up the go-ahead PAT with 1:18 left. No, I don't expect Mixon to not take the ball into the end zone when he has a chance to give his team the lead. I do, although given Marvin Lewis' history with the clock, expect the Bengals to manage the time better.
Three times on the go-ahead drive they snapped the ball with the game clock running — each time with at least 16 seconds remaining on the play clock.
Here is a look at each:
- On third and 4 from their own 31, they snapped it with 22 seconds left on the play clock and got a first down on a 5-yard pass from Dalton to Uzomah.
- On first and 10 from their own 36, they snapped it with 16 seconds on the play clock and got a pass interference penalty on Pittsburgh.
- On first and 10 from the Pittsburgh 11, they snapped it with 17 seconds on the play clock and got a 7-yard completion from Dalton to Green.
Had they taken the play clock under 10 seconds in each instance, Pittsburgh would have had 44 seconds to work with rather than 1:12.
The way the offense kept initiating plays with all sorts of time left of the play clock is really problematic, and while he might have very well been following coach's instructions, a successful NFL quarterback in his eighth season has to have better game management skills and clock awareness.
*Fourth and one at the Pittsburgh 40 and the Bengals decided to punt, in what ended up being a net gain of 28 yards. You want to beat the Steelers, you become the aggressor. This was a case of the Bengals being the exact opposite of whatever "aggressor" is.
*I'm in a salty mood, which means I don't feel like saying a bunch of nice things, but Alex Erickson was terrific returning kicks, setting up a critical score at the end of the first half. Tyler Boyd continues to ball out, and made some really nice-looking catches. Andy Dalton was better than he'll be given credit for, playing maybe his best game against Pittsburgh behind an offensive line that was, at times, helpless. These things would be expanded upon if the result was more favorable.
*I'm begging for John Ross' groin to heal, less so in order to watch him and more so I don't have to watch Cody Core drop balls all over the field anymore.
*This was a slick catch, and a big part of an overall lousy day for Darqueze Dennard.
*I want to take the whole "the sky is not falling" approach, but I'd be lying if I went that route right now. This was a huge missed opportunity to really seize control of the division, and at least make the Steelers have to play weeks worth of catch-up in the AFC North. Now, the Bengals are looking at arguably their toughest game of the season next week, the Ravens' defense is starting to live up to its potential, and despite everything that was said and written about the Steelers being so dysfunctional, they're lurking with a 3-2-1 record and another chapter in their story of dominance over the Bengals.
Yes, the Bengals are still 4-2. But this loss, in part because of the team it came against, and in part because of the number of injuries that piled up as the game went on, feels like it was more than just one loss.
(Photo: Getty Images)