Great, two games into the season and already the title of this feature makes no sense. A Monday night game in Cincinatti leads to a Tuesday morning recap and I guess you might as well figure this out now. Get it out of the way, just as hopefully the Steelers are getting all their losses out of the way early.
There was a LOT to hate about this game and how it played out, mostly hinging on the fact that the Bengals are utter crap and Pittsburgh had every chance to put them away, often. You can blame the lack of a running game, but that wasn't the problem. You can blame Ben's late INT, but that wasn't the problem. You can even blame Todd Haley's bizarre play-calling, but even though it was significant in the handcuffing of this offense, it still wasn't THE problem.
We'll get into it below.
Ben: 20 of 37 for 251 yards 1 TD and 1 INT. And he woulda been over 300 if not for a penalty that I'll get into later. Do I fault Ben for forcing a pass to Jerricho Cotchery that was tipped into the air off the WR's hands for an INT? Not at all. We need to look at the basics of that play to even understand where fault actually lies. Cotchery had already bobbled one easy pass over the middle earlier in the game that would've given the team a first down. And he lost another pass in the lights. And here with the game on the line, the play called in is for Ben to rely on Cotchery, already shaky for most of the game, with AB and Manny not involved. Or even 13-foot tall Derek Moye, already with a TD and a height advantage where NO Ben pass is too high. But I'm talking about a lot of other stuff in this spot reserved for Ben. I'll give Ben 3 of 5 helmets. Oh, what could have been.
RBs: Non-existent. 0 of 5 motorcycle helmets. Isaac Redman is not a capable NFL back. Please stop giving him the ball, especially on a 3rd and 2 shotgun sidecar handoff that the entire world can see is coming.
Defense: Despite the still-ongoing lack of turnovers and pressure on the QB, the D played a sneaky decent game aside from maybe two plays. The TD pass and the TD run. Yes, those plays contributed to the loss. But yes, we as fans need to understand that TDs happen and your team shouldn't provide absolute hell on offense as a means of competing in a game. Ike Taylor more or less held A.J. Green in check. Cam Heyward looked capable in the first half. We expect this defense to be otherworldly at all times, and the brief moments when they slip should not decide the outcome like it has through two games. Yes, they need turnovers, but yes they also need help from the offense. 2.5 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
David Paulson: Plaxico Burress still gets a ton of crap for spiking a live ball as a rookie. David Paulson is not a rookie. David Paulson made a nice catch-and-run, only to fumble the ball in midair. David Paulson's attempt at recovering said football as it lay on the turf with no Bengal immediately picking it up...standing up, turning his back and walking away. That is unacceptable. If there's even a chance that the ball is out of your hands before the play is over, you better be jumping on that ball or picking it up just in case. David Paulson felt otherwise, and a good-looking offensive drive deep into Cinceinatti territory stalled and a minimum of 3 points were taken off the board. 0 of 5 motorcycle helmets. I am disgusted by that indifference with the ball on the turf. His name was David Paulson, and he helped decide a game for the opposition. Project Mayhem is in effect.
Mike Carey: Yep, I'm going the sour grapes route and blaming the refs. Why? Well with the game tied at 10 early in the 3rd quarter, Ben completed a long 33 yard pass to Antonio Brown to get the Steelers to the edge of FG range at the Bengals' 30 yard line. Only HANDS ON HIPS TIME happened:
Carey's crew called a phantom tripping penalty on Marcus Gilbert that has been widely criticized by just about everyone with working eyeballs and a cursory understanding of football. Ben took a sack on the following play and the team had to punt. That's another 3-7 points and a Steelers lead taken off the board. Cincy came back the very next series with a TD, taking a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the way. Only who knows what may have been had the Steelers not been wrongly penalized, with a lead and a formal kickoff instead of a punt from deep in their own zone and a tie score. 0 of 5 motorcycle helmets. Might have been one of the worst calls of all time, and even though I use a ton of hyperbole in my writing style, this one is said with the straightest of faces.
Rashard Mendenhall is likely still blamed by 99-100% of the Steelers fanbase for fumbling on a go-ahead drive leading to a Super Bowl loss. As well he should be. But if the same fanbase doesn't lay this loss on Paulson and Carey, then those fans are way too concerned about over-active Twitter accounts than actual on-field happenings.
The Chicago Bears come to Heinz for a Sunday night game next weekend. Which means I'm up late again recapping whatever new madness ensues. Fun times.
(thanks to Doug for the banner pic)