Week 9 Recap: Out-Bungling The Bengals

Thanks, Ryan.

The Pittsburgh Steelers continued their unfortunate habit of making games closer than they have any right to be, holding on to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals 27-21.  Can we please stop leaving “The Steelers should win easy this week.” type messages in the comments?   NOTHING is ever easy for this team.   The Black and Gold held a 27-7 lead IN THE FOURTH QUARTER and came within one James Harrison shellacking of blowing it.

The Bengals seemed hellbent on giving the game away from the opening kickoff.  Emmanuel Sanders put a nice hit on Bernard Scott and Jason Worilds pounced on the fumble.   Three plays later, Rashard Mendenhall bulldozed his way into the end zone.  On Cincy’s next drive, the Bungles continued their comical special teams play by getting the punt blocked.  This time, the Steelers had to settle for a Skippy Reed FG.

Spotted a ten point lead, you’d think the Steelers would cruise to an easy victory.  As soon as those foolish thoughts entered my head, sure enough Hines Ward fumbled away a WR screen pass (which Bruce Arians called approximately 195 times last night).  Terrell Owens torched Gay for a 21 yard TD and the game was on.

But wait…never underestimate the Bungles desire to lose.   Carson Palmer threw an ill-advised pass into triple coverage where it was intercepted by NPC reader’s pick for Mid-Season MVP Lawrence Timmons (good call).   Ben Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace streaking down the sideline with a beautiful 35 yard strike and three plays later a dump over the middle to Hines scored a TD.  Actually, Hines was about half a yard short of a TD but inept Marvin Lewis had already wasted a challenge on the Wallace catch and didn’t want to blow his wad early.

While all this was going on, Steelers were falling by the wayside left and right.  I was watching the Bengals and a Ravens game broke out.  Brett Keisel’s balky hamstring acted up, Chris Kemoeatu had some sort of ankle problem, and the man who should be Rookie of the Year, Maurkice Pouncey, went down with a sprained knee.  It was like a preseason game with Doug Legursky at center and Jonathan Scott at guard.

Meanwhile, the Bengals injuries continued to be self-inflicted.  After a long return by Scott, Cincy missed a 51 yard field goal.   Starting almost at mid-field, Ben was able to hit The Flash for 24 yards.  This set up another Skippy boot to close out the half 20-7.

For those keeping score at home, that’s five huge Bengal-blunders resulting in all our points.

The Steelers tried running the ball in the second half but weren’t having much luck behind a banged up line.  When they did throw, Ben ran around like his pants were on fire (although in his case, that burning sensation is probably a gift from the loose women he associates with).  When he finally decided to throw after breaking four tackles and surveying the field for 35 seconds, it was mostly short stuff.  The Steelers had a golden opportunity to break the game open early in the third when Wallace blew past the entire secondary but Ben underthrew him by 2 yards.  In fact, the nicest deep ball all night was Antwaan Randle-El‘s 39 yard TD bomb to Wallace, who still had to come back for it.

That was the first play of the fourth quarter and put the Steelers up by 20.   The Bengals quickly responded with a 57 yard TD drive which took all of a minute and a half.  This time, T.O. was matched up against B-Mac and McFadden didn’t fare any better than Gay.  Perhaps giving every receiver an 8 yard cushion isn’t the brightest idea, Bryant.

On our next drive, Ben threw a crappy lollipop late into traffic and was picked off.  Although his final numbers weren’t horrible (17-27 for only 163 yards 1/1), they weren’t great either.  Four games into his comeback, something still seems off with him.  At times, like the fantastic over-the-shoulder throw to Wallace, you see flashes of last year’s Ben but the consistency isn’t there.   I suspect he’s trying so hard to be the hero his teammates and Steeler Nation already view him as that the pressure is rattling him.

The Bengals took the gift and scored another TD by gaining 1 yard.   Did I forget to mention they returned the INT to the 1 yard line?   No, I did not.   They took possession at Pittsburgh’s 36.   But first there was a bogus roughing the passer call on Casey Hampton then a phantom pass interference flag on Ike Taylor.  So Cincy managed to move the ball 35 yards without actually doing anything except looking at the refs and crying for a penalty.

Wait, I thought the Steelers got all the calls?

A twenty point lead had shrunk faster than Bret Favre in an ice bath.   With the score an uncomfortably close 27-21, the Steelers went Old School.   Defying all logic (Legursky was at LG, for crying out loud), they started pounding the ball down their throats.  Mendy ripped of runs of 8, 9, and 18 yards in rapid succession.  A lame draw play on 3rd and 6 (Why isn’t our superhero behind center throwing in that situation?), set up a 46 yard field goal.  Skippy shanked it as the Steelers were suddenly trying to out-bungle the Bungles.

You suck, Skippy.  I could put up with your whiny troll-doll lookin’ drunken idiocy when you made all your kicks.  Now, not so much.  Where’s Piotr Czech?

The Bengals moved down the field with little resistance.  Palmer was an equal-opportunity exploiter as he picked on all our inept corners.  A 20 yarder over the middle to a wide open T.O., who held on despite getting steamrolled by Troy, moved them down to the Steelers 17.   I’ve been very critical of T.O. but I have to give big props for yesterday’s performance.  He’s proven to be the clutch, gutsy veteran receiver Ochocinco has never been.

A penalty and three plays later and we were at 4th and 5 from the 12.  Palmer completed a first down pass to Jordan Shipley, who had the ball dislodged by a crushing blow from the Silverback.  Had Shipley held on to that pass, I have no doubt the Bengals would’ve scored the go-ahead touchdown.  And we would’ve had another fourth quarter collapse.

I don’t understand what goes on with this team at the end of games.  It’s like as soon as the scoreboard switches to Q4, everybody goes on auto-pilot.  It’s a disturbing trend on defense which began last season and continues to this day.  We thought no Troy and no B-Mac and no Smith explained the problem but there’s more to it than that.   And on the flip side, the offensive explosion we had last season and we expected with Ben’s return still hasn’t materialized.  Yes, we’re 6-2 and, yes, we’re as  good as anybody in the NFL but at this point I don’t think I’d be surprised if any of the Jets, Ravens, Steelers, Colts, Patriots, Chargers, or Chiefs went to the Super Bowl or didn’t win a playoff game.

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