Bengals loss to Steelers makes NFL Playoff Picture Shaky

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Dec 15, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals half back Giovani Bernard (25) dives past Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Vince Williams (98) for a touchdown during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals had a chance to climb into the AFC’s No. 2 seed tonight, but a terrible performance tonight against the Pittsburgh Steelers has them instead licking their wounds and looking ahead to the final two weeks of the regular season.

The Bengals are by no means assured of a playoff spot, and if the Baltimore Ravens win tomorrow night vs. the Detroit Lions, they’ll pull to within one game of the AFC North lead. That’s the reality the Bengals are in now after failing to take care of business against an 8-loss Steelers team that looked like a Super Bowl contender against Cincinnati.

They jumped out to a 21-point lead in the first quarter, marking the first time since 1986 against the Chicago Bears the the Bengals gave up 21 points in the first quarter. That effectively ended the game, as Cincinnati just isn’t a team built to come back from big deficits.

They were effectively shut-down for three quarters, and only when the Steelers defense started going into more of a prevent look did the offense begin finding some rhythm. That allowed them to pull to within 10 points, but it just was too big of a deficit to overcome.

I’m no NFL historian, but I’d be willing to bet Ben Roethlisberger never lost a game his team led 21-0 in the first quarter in, and that probably is true for both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, two opposing QBs who Cincinnati may now have to face on the road.