The truth is…the Bengals are not as good as the Steelers. So, in a way, Pittsburgh does have their number. They ‘do’ know how to push their buttons, and to make matters worse – they don’t even have to be nasty about it.
CINCINNATI — This was supposed to be about blood, nasty and gritty. It was supposed to be Bengals and Steelers, Act II of that ridiculous and regrettable show in the playoffs last season:
- Six turnovers
- 18 penalties
- Jeremy Hill fumbles the ball away with 1:23 to play. The Bengals self-destruct—implode, personal fouls all over the place—and suffer an embarrassing 18-16 loss.
It was supposed to be something like that.
All week, pesky reporters from across the country—converged on the Steelers’ camp. They asked the same question in hundreds of different guises:
It’s true, right? The Steelers own the Bengals. Really got their number; know how to push all the right buttons? C’mon, fess up.
To their credit, the Steelers didn’t take the bait. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Rothlisberger said he had the “highest respect” for the Bengals, especially the defense, and never mind that he was grinning when he spoke.
In Cincinnati, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and his charges waved off similar questions; dismissed them as so much media drivel. He doesn’t like media drivel.
He said his team “learned from that game”. He said they put it away last spring when practice started. “New team,” he said. “New season.”
Tight end Tyler Eifert, out with an injury, conceded the Bengals had to “play smart; be smart.”
That’s about as far as that went.
Well, Sunday rolled around and the only thing nasty about the game at Heinz Field was the weather. It rained all day, and rained hardest when the Bengals tried to mount a late and ultimately doomed comeback.
As it turned out, the Bengals came away losers, 24-16, dropped by the dreaded Steelers once again.
They had a thin chance there at the end of the game, down eight and driving into Steeler territory. But time was running out. Lewis had spent his time outs. They needed a touchdown and two-point conversion to send it to overtime.
It was truly over, and over before James Harrison knocked the ball out of rookie receiver Tyler Boyd’s hands and it was ruled a fumble, Steelers’ ball.
The play was reviewed and the ruling upheld, but that play will be bandied about on Sports radio all week and folks will be yelling, saying the Bengals got the shaft—that sort of thing—that the refs took the game away.
They’ll say, “If only…”
But watching Sunday the “if only…” is this:
If only the Bengals were as good as the Steelers. They aren’t. They Steelers do have their number, because they are better than the Bengals.
It was right there Sunday afternoon, on the field and on the TV screen. The Steelers started the game by giving the Bengals a taste of DeAngelo Williams and a running game that is a bona fide running game.
Meanwhile, their defense went about throttling the Bengals’ attempts to run the ball.
The final numbers:
- Williams – 94 Yards Rushing on 32 Carries, and four catches for 34 yards and a touchdown.
- Bengals 46 yards rushing.
Plain and simple, you can’t win games against the best teams in the league with a running game that can be virtually shutdown.
Beyond this, where oh where was All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green. He was double-teamed; held to two catches and 38 yards in the first half. He was a non-factor.
Now, add to this mix the fact that the Bengals did not tackle well and seemed confused on their defensive calls on occasion – Williams slipping into the end zone for a 3-yard TD catch and as wide open as Wal-Mart – and you have a bit of a problem.
Of course, we could talk on about how they get into the red zone and have to settle for field goals; how they had so much trouble converting on third down (3 of 14), or how the offensive game plan just didn’t seem up to par to face a Steeler defense.
We could go on and on in that vein, but no use.
The facts are pretty simple. The Bengals are a pretty good football team. They will win more than they lose.
But the truth is they are not as good as the Steelers. So, in a way, Pittsburgh does have their number. They do know how to push their buttons, and to make matters worse – they don’t even have to be nasty about it.