The Pittsburgh Steelers are now enduring their worst start to a season since Head Coach Mike Tomlin took over, after they fell to 0-2, following a 20-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night. There were positives to take defensively for Pittsburgh, but like their loss to the Tennessee Titans in the opening week, the Steelers couldn′t consistently produce on offense, and that will be a significant worry for Tomlin.
- The Steelers receiving corps, shorn of Mike Wallace (now with the Miami Dolphins) and Heath Miller (injured), were unable to get consistent separation from the Bengals′ defense, despite quarterback Ben Roethlisberger′s best efforts to keep plays alive for as long as possible. There′s talent at the position for Pittsburgh, particularly with Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, but the sooner Miller returns from injury, the better for the Steelers.
- Pittsburgh have struggled on the offensive line for some time now, and this week was no different for them. The fact Roethlisberger was sacked just two times is not a testament to them, but to the quarterback′s remarkable pocket awareness. Fernando Velasco, who replaced the injured Maurkice Pouncey at center, performed admirably in his first game for the Steelers, but the line as a whole was poor in pass protection, and unable to create holes for any of Pittsburgh′s running backs.
- The traditionally solid running game of the Pittsburgh Steelers was also at a loss Monday night, with Felix Jones featuring most heavily, but the former Dallas Cowboy was unable to find space against the suffocating defense of the Bengals. His disappointing 37 yards on 10 carries was largely attributable to the Steelers offensive line play, and Tomlin will be eager for rookie Le′Veon Bell to return to full fitness. The physicality that Bell brings to the running back position could be just what Pittsburgh need, particularly with their offensive line failing to open up running lanes.
- On the defensive side of the ball, things are less grim for the Steelers, with veteran corner Ike Taylor having a particularly strong game against Cincinnati. More often than not, Taylor was matched up against the Bengals′ premiere receiver, A. J. Green, and restricted the receiver to just 41 yards on six receptions, whilst also making a team high six tackles.
- Another star of Pittsburgh′s secondary, Troy Polamalu, shone on Monday. The safety was always close to the ball, and played with his trademark physicality, something which seemed to be missing in an injury strewn 2012 campaign. A healthy Polamalu is one of the most dynamic players in the NFL, and his presence will be needed to help lift the Steelers from this early season slump.
- Rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones had a solid game, registering six tackles, but the rest of the front seven, including veterans LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons and Brett Keisel, had a quiet night, and struggled to put pressure on Bengals′ quarterback Andy Dalton, who went through the game without being sacked once.
The Steelers next game is a trip to Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears, and they will need to make significant improvements if they are to have any chance of upsetting the odds. Most pressing of all, will be to get their misfiring offensive line on the same page, especially given the their recent investments at the position (2nd round draft picks on Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert, and a 1st round pick on David DeCastro). If the O-Line can improve, and the Steelers can welcome both Bell and Miller back from injury, then their offensive struggles could soon be alleviated.
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