November 26, 2022

As anyone remembers the Pittsburgh Steelers from the years leading up to their first Super Bowl win, when an NFL team is several bricks away from a charge, they sometimes manage to cover up their flaws for a game here and there. . But in a grueling 17-game season, the true nature of the team invariably emerges, especially against quality opponents. During their Sunday game with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Bad Steelers cast showed up at the worst possible times to overshadow any Good Steelers cameos.

In a relatively brief period during the second half of their 37-30 loss to the Bengals, the game went completely away from black-and-gold. A Steelers defense that held up so well in the second half against the Saints the weekend before had no answers for Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense — especially at the stage of the game where it mattered most. Falling to a 3-7 record, it is evident that the Black-and-gold have now reached a turning point in their 2022 season from which they are unlikely to rebound substantially.

Cincinnati’s TD practices in the first half cut too easily through the home team’s weak resistance. But in the second half, the Steelers offense put even more pressure on their harassed defense by continually stalling and returning the ball to the Bengals. Pittsburgh scored just three second-half points before garbage time — not enough to keep pace with Burrow and the Bengals.

An offense that had shown signs of life in the first half by scoring 20 points went completely wild after intermission – so much so that the Bengals defense spent most of the last 30 minutes of the game playing with Kenny Pickett and company as if playing. an exhibition game with the Pitt Panthers.

Having performed reasonably well in the first half, Pickett looked very much like the typical green rookie after halftime. He was harassed by the Bengals’ pass rush and several of his shots went off target. For the first time in his short career, Pickett’s confidence seemed to waver and he looked undecided. But that slump was definitely a group effort and essentially what one would expect from a rebuilding team led by a rookie quarterback and playing without the benefit of a strong OL or strong defense. All in all, it wasn’t a pretty picture.

Because the Steelers’ overall performance on both sides of the ball was so below the line, it’s not particularly useful to analyze this game statistically. Nevertheless, some general conclusions are possible following this disappointing defeat:

1) Barring injury, Kenny Pickett will need each of the Steelers’ remaining regular season games to answer nagging questions about whether he is the rightful heir to the Roethlisberger throne. Pickett certainly can’t grow as a young QB sitting on the bench.

2) TJ Watt is a great footballer but he alone cannot cure the many ills of this Steelers defense.

3) Without the ability to constantly pressure opposing QBs, the Steelers defense becomes a fairly easy target for opponents.

4) The Steelers offensive line has improved but is still not good enough in terms of personnel.

5) The Steelers need an entirely different offensive scheme that uses the team’s available talent to better advantage. Matt Canada seems unable to provide this level of leadership.

These days, the Steelers’ shortcomings as a team are just too big to fix in what’s left of this season. The loss to Cincinnati underscores the fact that any NFL team with a semi-powerful offense enjoys a significant advantage over the Steelers, including some teams currently outperforming the Bengals. In Sunday’s game, like several others this season, the Steelers veered wildly between plays encouraging hope and those inciting despair. These are precisely the characteristics of a “timid three-brick” team that usually lacks the overall talent to compete credibly.

As many observers noted at the start of the season, 2022 was set to be a year of transition and a major rebuilding phase for the Noir et Or. just not realistic to expect too much too soon from this group. And today, the validity of those warnings has caught on.

While there’s always the chance that the Steelers could up their game and add a few wins before the season is out, we also have to face the harsh reality that the team’s many flaws will also be waiting in the wings to emerge without warning to dash our hopes. Sadly, that’s just the way it is with this team that remains a work in progress, still struggling to establish a positive identity.

There’s no denying the painful sight of a Steelers team being humiliated in their home stadium by a division rival Pittsburgh has historically possessed. It’s a defeat that will certainly sting for a while. Having won just three of their first 10 games, Mike Tomlin and the Steelers front office must surely realize that the rest of this season looks a lot more like an unwelcome extension of the preseason than a serious quest for improvement. a place in the playoffs.

In the wake of this loss, it’s clear that the next seven weeks of football will have a lot more to do with determining the team’s needs in the off-season and gathering evidence for tough decisions about players and players. coaches who deserve to stay in the Steel City and which ones. Should go. But just because the team’s collapse isn’t much of a surprise doesn’t make it any easier for Steelers Nation to swallow.

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