Tim Benz: Airing of Grievances after Steelers horrific Bengals loss; Big Ben, JuJu, fading defense – TribLIVE

So much for the idea that the Steelers’ trip to Cincinnati was a “get right game.” I suppose that’s what it looks like when “gettin’ right” goes wrong.

The 11-2 Steelers went into 2-10-1 Cincinnati and lost 27-17 in one of the worst defeats of the Mike Tomlin-Ben Roethlisberger era.

And that’s saying something. Because, oh boy, have there been a lot of doozies on that list.

It may take a Festivus miracle for the Steelers to win again the rest of the season.

If they can’t beat the Cincinnati Bengals with a third-string quarterback or the Washington Football Team without a nickname, and struggle against the Baltimore Ravens without one third of their roster, how are they going to beat the Indianapolis Colts or Cleveland Browns the next two weeks?

Let alone whatever team gets to pound them in the playoffs.

That’s assuming the NFL doesn’t pull a reverse version of what the Big Ten did with Ohio State. Maybe commissioner Roger Goodell will change the rules late in the season and go back to only allowing six teams per conference in the playoffs, just to keep the Steelers out.

Frankly, if the Steelers were to play Ohio State next week, I’d take the Buckeyes minus-7 points.

The Steelers have now lost three in a row. It probably should’ve been four in a row. They haven’t looked crisp in five weeks.

So there are a lot of things to vent about in this week’s “Airing of Grievances.” Just keep the Festivus pole away from JuJu Smith-Schuster. He’ll probably just start dancing around it.

Until you pin Ryan Finley, Festivus is not over. Let’s rumble!


Bad Ben: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was terrible. Dreadful. Awful. One of the worst games of his Steelers career.

He was 20 of 38 for 170 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His passer rating was 62.4. His average yards per attempt was 4.5.

When receivers were open deep, he underthrew them. When receivers were running crossing patterns underneath, he threw behind them. When receivers were open on intermediate routes, he overthrew them.

Roethlisberger threw into traffic, fumbled a snap and got passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage. According to the “Monday Night Football” broadcast, Roethlisberger had 19 yards passing in the first half, a career worst for any half in his career. The crew also said he misfired on his first seven passes of 10 yards or more.

But I know, I know. His arm and his knee are just fine. And they aren’t throwing the ball downfield often out of preference for this totally awesome short passing game, right?

Right?

If it weren’t for a dropped interception in the second half by William Jackson that would’ve made Ike Taylor blush, Roethlisberger’s stat line would’ve been even worse.

Earlier in the day, ESPN’s Adam Schefter filed a report saying Ben Roethlisberger wanted to come back next year. Three weeks ago, that seemed like a no-brainer good news report.

Now, at the tune of $41 million against the cap next year, I’m not so sure.


Everybody else: It wasn’t just Roethlisberger. The whole offense was rotten.

Coordinator Randy Fichtner’s offense punted or turned the ball over on eight straight possessions to start the game. There wasn’t a lot of separation for Steelers receivers. And when there was, Roethlisberger usually misfired.

The offensive line failed to impress as the run game only averaged 3.7 yards per rush. And Carl Lawson dominated with a sack and six quarterback hits.

The team was 5 for 18 on possession downs, lost the time of possession battle and averaged an ugly 3.9 yards per play.


Diminished defense: As the offense fails, the defense is starting to falter more and more often.

Coordinator Keith Butler’s group yielded 27 points to a team that had a third-string quarterback under center and had totaled just 50 points over its last five games. It allowed all three Bengals turnovers to become scores.

Meanwhile, the formerly turnover-happy Steelers defense couldn’t force a single one against a Bengals team that had 22 giveaways coming into the game. Only five clubs had more this season.

Plus, the Bengals came in allowing 46 sacks, second most behind Philadelphia’s 59. The Steelers only had two. Unimpressive from the league leaders with 45 in that category.

The Steelers also gave up 47 yards rushing to Finley from the quarterback position, including a 23-yard touchdown.

That capped an awful drive in which the Steelers allowed Cincy to march 80 yards in nine plays and extend their 17-10 lead to 24-10. The Steelers really needed a stop there, and the Bengals practically decided the game at that moment.


I just gotta dance: Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said that he would keep dancing at the midfield logo in opposing stadiums. Even though players on the Bills and Bengals recently expressed displeasure with him doing so.

But Smith-Schuster did it again anyway before the game.

How’d that turn out? Well, Bengals safety Vonn Bell — who warned Smith-Schuster that he was going to get hit if he danced on the logo — hammered JuJu right ontop of it in the first quarter, causing a turnover.

Much like Josh Allen and the Bills Twitter account, Cincinnati’s took notice.

So did Bell.

But I know, I know. “There’s no such thing as bulletin board material.”


December dings: The injuries continue to mount.

Vince Williams still isn’t back from the covid-19 list. James Conner couldn’t play because of a quad injury. Derek Watt appeared to suffered a concussion during a tackle on a punt in the first quarter. And Eric Ebron hurt his back.

Since it was “Muppets Night” on the ESPN broadcast, maybe Dr. Bunsen Honeydew can get on the case and clone some of the Steelers’ better players to fill the void between now and the Indianapolis Colts game.

Honeydew should feel lucky. Since he doesn’t have any eyes, he didn’t have to watch that awful performance from the Steelers in the first place.

Sadly, the rest of us did.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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