Hey, remember earlier this week when I extended a half compliment to Bruce Arians for his improved playcalling? So, let's be clear that that is rescinded. If I may replace any such plaudits with a chainsaw lodged in his rectum, that would be just grand.
Obviously, not all of this maddening loss can be laid at the feet of that dopey fat shit. The O-line regressed horribly, especially Max Starks. Big Ben had an overall lousy game. The kick coverage remains a huge issue that continues to be exploited in close games. Hell, it proved to be the difference in this one. Cincy, to their credit, didn't commit the big mistake. The Bengals contained an underutilized Rashard Mendenhall and their linemen slapped down what seemed like 80 or 90 Roethlisberger passes.
But it must be noted that the league's signature overrated permachild, Chad Ochocinco, still did nothing.
Still - this game will be remembered by more textbook Arians idiocy (this being the constant and predictable run-pass-pass variety). With the talent the Steelers have on offense, they can still move the ball between the 20s with that kind of approach. But once they got in the red zone, the Bengals knew runs would be coming on first down, leaving them only have to defend two pass plays they expected to be coming. It certainly didn't help either that the Steelers were flagged for holding on two of their red zone trips. And Santonio had what would be a touchdown catch go through his hands.
I ridiculed the Bengals secondary going into this game, but they put forth a admirable performance. Naturally, it didn't help that Arians would consistently dial up late forming deep routes that couldn't get open before the pass rush rendered plays broken and that Ben felt it necessary to try a couple "fuggit, I'm going deep" throws into double coverage on several occasions during this game (even if one of these gambits yielded a stupid pass interference penalty by Cincy safety Chinedum Ndukwe that led to a Steelers field goal at the end of the first half).
And, as an extra swift kick in the junk, Troy Polamalu left the game in the first quarter after reaggravating his injured knee. At the moment, his long term prospects are unknown. His services probably aren't necessary next week against the Chiefs, but now that tiebreakers will be important against the Ravens, he will be integral in the game in Baltimore in two weeks.
If there's any upside to be found, it's that the defense gave up a total of 12 points on four field goals, one of which had be considered a big win given that the Bengals started their drive inside the Steelers 20 after a Roethlisberger tipped pass was intercepted. Still, the D also allowed Cincy to pick up a series of first downs mostly via the run late in the 4th, even with Cedric Benson having long since left the game.
Barring an epic Bengals collapse (never rule it out with Marvin Lewis leading the show, even if their remaining schedule looks to be mostly a cakewalk) the Steelers will be fighting for a Wild Card berth the remainder of the year. While it sucks to cede the division to a bunch of fairweather franchise protesting fans in Cincy, before the Steelers won it out of the no. 2 seed last year, the previous three Super Bowl champs came out of the Wild Card round. And, well, we all remembered what happened in the playoffs the last time Cincy won the North.