Can last year tell us anything about this year? In this series, we’ll look at the Bengals schedule game by game, analyzing the good and bad from each week.
Following two consecutive victories, the Bengals had a ton of momentum entering their bye week. Week 6 came and went, but the daunting task of beating the Steelers loomed in Week 7. At 2-3, the team needed a win against the division leaders to really insert themselves into the playoff picture. Unfortunately, the Bengals ran out of gas and fell to their bitter rivals.
The game started pretty well for the Bengals, as they were able to move the ball and piece together drives. They traded touchdowns with the Steelers in the first and second quarters to get the score to 14-14 with five minutes left. Andy Dalton was responsible for both touchdowns, throwing to Brandon LaFell and Tyler Kroft.
After their initial scores, the Bengals fizzled out. The Steelers posted two extra field goals before halftime, then put up three more in the second half. The Bengals, on the other hand, reverted to stagnant offense. They did not move the ball across midfield in the entire second half. Dalton also threw two backbreaking interceptions to kill any chance of a comeback. This loss felt like death by a thousand paper cuts watching the Steelers kick field goal after field goal.
The story of this game was how quiet all of the Bengals’ stars were on both sides of the ball. Overall, the offense looked fairly pedestrian, with no one standing out in particular. The Bengals only ran 47 plays for 179 and 11 first downs – all of which are putrid numbers. Comparatively, the Steelers ran 68 plays for 420 yards and 21 first downs.
The team ran the ball very few times, but Joe Mixon at least ran efficiently on his touches. He got 7 touches to Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill’s 3 each, and took them for 48 yards. That 6.9 yards per carry figure was considerably higher than anything Mixon had done previously.
In the passing game, no one performed particularly well at all. Dalton had an average game, completing 57% of his passes for 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. AJ Green has his first down game, catching only 3 balls for 41 yards. Otherwise, Dalton spread the ball around, getting 7 different pass catchers involved. LaFell also caught his first touchdown of the season.
Likewise, the defense played mediocrely, with no player standing out above the rest. Shawn Williams and Darqueze Dennard tied for the team lead with 7 tackles. Geno Atkins was noticeably quiet against Pittsburgh, recording just one tackle. Other stars like Carlos Dunlap, Vontaze Burfict, and George Iloka didn’t perform better, each of them recording 4 tackles. The defense did not force a single sack, fumble, or interception in a very disappointing effort.
Overall, the Bengals just didn’t play very well against the Steelers. Any game against a strong divisional rival will be tough, but the team lacked a tenacity and a drive to win a crucial game. They fell to 2-4 on the season, falling further out of the playoff picture.