Steelers must fix their major issues against the Bengals

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7). Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7). Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers have had their share of struggles as of late. Here’s why they must fix their issues against the Bengals on Monday Night Football.

Two straight losses in the last week and a half have stung the Steelers organization, but give the devils their due as we have lost to two good teams. It took a different 2nd half against Washington to give us our first loss of the 2020 campaign and they’re just 1 win and another Giants loss to clinch the NFC East. Pittsburgh struggled to get ahead against Buffalo, who just clinched the AFC East division title for the first time since 1995.

It takes every aspect of football to win ball-games as the first 11 games have shown, but the games against Washington and Buffalo gave light to the weaknesses that had every chance to derail us early on. Such interruptions from COVID-19 have also affected gameplay due to mental fatigue and these losses could be a blessing in disguise that will give the Steelers a boost. My last two posts have told what the Steelers should need to do or work on and until a win occurs, whether it’s against Cincinnati tonight or Indianapolis next week to clinch the division, the status quo remains the same.

Keep in mind, any poor performance should not put blame on any specific player; it is on everyone. Coach Tomlin and company have full responsibility for calling plays, and players should fully execute them. That means every receiver the ball is getting thrown to should be caught (unless it is under or overthrown), tackles are made the way they’re supposed to, and we are not committing silly mistakes. Though if coaches call a wrong play, they should take the blame as well. These games have affected everybody top-down and it allowed one leader to hypothetically rethink his purpose on this team.

Ben Roethlisberger shed light on the subject of these consecutive losses in a press conference this past week quoting that “If I don’t play good enough football, I should hang it up.” Keep in mind since his prior elbow surgery and many injuries before that, there have been rampant rumors about his retirement coming soon. Knowing Ben’s toughness throughout his career, he won’t give up until his body says so. I believe that he’s being sarcastic just to give the team a wake-up call to get our act together and he’s right.

Ben’s stats (like he may not care) are comparable to his rookie season where he led the team to the AFC Championship Game – and that’s saying something at the age of 38 and nearly 17 full seasons in the league. Getting key players back from Reserve/Covid or injury should help in the performance of the offense, as well as the defense.

Without the Offense scoring much or getting ahead when there’s a lead, that does put the mental pressure on our defense that once was number one in the league. Against Washington and Buffalo, the Steelers have been mediocre at best, but we have been unsuccessful in retaining a lead the offense has had. On average this season, yards allowed are at 303. In the previous two games, they have been at 318 and 334, respectively. In the 11 games won in 2020, it was at 298.

Keep in mind giving up big plays increases the numbers, and in the games against Washington and Buffalo, they occurred. Back against Baltimore in a play that should not have happened, Trace McSorley threw a 70-yard bomb to Hollywood Brown that pulled the game tighter than it should have been. In addition, the defensive line hasn’t gotten to the quarterback as often – opening light on a weak secondary which has been stupendous all year.

On top of this, injuries to Joe Haden with a concussion and the season-ending injuries to Devin Bush and Bud Depree have diminished prime performance. Those who have stepped up in their place have been average at best. With the playoffs approaching, there’s room for improvement.

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Let me rephrase that: There’s room for improvement all-around and though Pittsburgh should take care of business against the Bengals tonight in the short-term, problems they have been dealing with are a cause of concern long-term. We’ll get a glimpse of a performance boost on Monday Night Football, but we should expect a full turnaround against Indianapolis this next Sunday.