Cursed. The Pittsburgh Steelers are f*cking cursed.
Le’Veon Bell suspended the first two games, Martavis Bryant the first four. Bell comes back just in time for Ben Roethlisberger to miss four games with a knee injury. Ben comes back and a little over a quarter later, Bell falls to the ground clutching his knee in agony.
The really sad part is that by every right the Steelers should’ve beaten the Bengals yesterday. Instead, Steelers star running back Le’Veon Bell is lost for the season in team’s 16-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The loss drops the Black and Gold to 4-4 and all but ends any hope of winning the AFC North. Of course, the team has more immediate concerns.
Bell got his knee bent in an almost identical reply of Big Ben’s earlier injury. Unfortunately, the prognosis is not as good. Early reports are the ACL is perfectly intact but that he’s torn his MCL. He’ll have further tests this afternoon but the “NFL Insiders” were pretty accurate when reporting Ben’s injury so I have to think Bell is most definitely lost for the year.
Once he was gone, the Steelers offense never really recovered as the game plan was clearly to focus everything on him to cover for Ben’s rust/limitations. DeAngelo Williams is a very good runner – hell, he led the league in rushing the first two weeks – but he’s nowhere near as dynamic. Nor is he much of a threat out of the backfield. Yesterday, he stepped in to rush for 71 yards on only 9 carries yet never seemed to take over the game like Bell does.
In fact, once Bell was gone Todd Haley‘s playcalling seemed to go haywire. They alternated between conservative runs and throwing long bombs down field. Ben isn’t the best long ball thrower on a good day, with a gimpy leg against a pretty decent secondary he had no chance. Not to mention dialing up long passes with a shaky line and an gimpy QB is complete lunacy.
Which isn’t to excuse the fact Ben played an atrocious game. Heath Miller had 10 catches for 103 yards and while I love Heeeeattth, that’s not a good sign. When Miller has a ton of catches, it usually means Ben is struggling and looking to his safety blanket to bail him out. He ended up a respectable 28/45(!?) for 245 yards but there were a ton of overthrows, underthrows, and just plain bad throws.
Ben’s hitting Antonio Brown on a slant in the end zone on their opening drive was probably his nicest pass of the day. After that, it was all downhill culminating with three costly interceptions, two of which led directly to 10 points by Cincinnati. The second was probably the worst as for the first time all day Ben looked like his old self, rolling out of the pocket and extending the play except he tried to force a throw to Will Johnson, never noticing the linebacker spying him. The Bengals scored the go-ahead touchdown from that drive, made worse because the INT happened right after the Steelers had picked off Andy Dalton themselves.
I have nothing but praise for the Steeler defense’s performance yesterday. Holding a relativly high-powered Cincy offense to only 16 points, 10 of which came on short fields following turnovers, is quite impressive. They gave up some chunks but they also buckled down when needed. They generated pressure (3 sacks) and turnovers (2 INTs) and basically kept the team in the game with the offense sputtering. Mike Mitchell and Antwon Blake of all people had the people had the picks with Blake’s coming in the end zone to squelch a rally while Mitchell made a nice tip drill play for his.
Then there was Cam Heyward, who blocked a field goal attempt to prevent 3 more points. The defensive line did a much better job against the run this week with Steve McClendon replacing SCam (Cam Thomas, a total bust of a free agent signing) at end with Daniel McCullers slotting at NT. Bud Dupree and Jarvis Jones (?) had sacks which is a nice sign. And when the Steelers weren’t forcing mistakes, the Bengals were self-destructing on their own such as two errant snaps that Dalton couldn’t handle which wrecked potential drives.
Cincinnati did everything they could do to possibly lose and still won. Meanwhile, the Steelers lost yet another game they could’ve – even should’ve – won. Stop me if you heard that before.
However, this was an especially costly loss, not only because we lost our superstar running back, but because it badly hurts any playoff chances we may have had. At 4-4 and in reality five games back of Cincy with 8 left, it’d take an epic collapse to win the division even if we won out. While the AFC is so mediocre that I suspect at least one possibly both Wild Cards will be 8-8, this was yet another AFC defeat which kills the Steelers with the second potential tie-breaker (after head-to-head) being conference record. All in all, it was a miserable day to be a Steeler fan.