The Pittsburgh Steelers had their doubters during their 11-0 start.
They’re good of course, but are they in the same class as the Kansas City Chiefs? Are they legitimate Super Bowl contenders?
Two consecutive losses, including a Week 13 stunner against the Washington Football Team, have vindicated those doubts. The Steelers certainly looked a rung below the fellow AFC-contending Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
With the playoffs approaching, it’s a tough time for Pittsburgh to hit a lull. But the schedule gods have done the Steelers a favor for Week 15, gifting them a classic get-right game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday, a contest that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.
Can Steelers fix offense vs. Bengals?
Instead of a tough matchup that threatens to extend their slide to three straight losses, the Steelers will take on a pitiable division foe they have beaten 10 straight times. And the 2-10-1 Bengals will be playing without their star rookie quarterback after Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 11. If healthy, Brandon Allen will get the start under center.
The matchup is certainly a welcome one for the Steelers after a week that had quarterback Ben Roethlisberger alluding to retirement.
“If I don’t play good enough football, I need to hang it up,” Roethlisberger said after losing to the Bills.
The statement from the 38-year-old was a tacit acknowledgment of the obvious — his best days are behind him. It’s also melodramatic coming from the quarterback of an 11-2 team.
Is Ben Roethlisberger to blame?
If you’re looking for a place to lay blame on Pittsburgh’s recent woes, Roethilsberger is as good a spot as any. After starting the season with 22 touchdowns against four interceptions in his first nine games, Roethlisberger has tallied seven touchdowns and five interceptions in his past four.
The Steelers’ offense has stagnated alongside its quarterback. Pittsburgh has failed to exceed 19 points in each of its past three games after scoring at least 26 in each of its first 10 games.
Roethlisberger’s weapons haven’t provided much help. After Steelers receivers tallied 13 drops in the two weeks prior to Sunday’s game against Buffalo, head coach Mike Tomlin threatened to bench players who dropped passes. He followed through with that threat Sunday, benching wide receiver Diontae Johnson for the remainder of the first half after an early drop.
Pittsburgh’s run game didn’t offer relief against Buffalo, netting 47 yards on 2.8 yards per carry. Former Pro Bowler James Connor logged 18 yards on 10 carries. To make matters worse, the Steelers placed a third starting offensive lineman on injured reserve after Sunday’s game when left guard Matt Feiler suffered a torn pectoral.
There’s no better time for the Steelers to take on the Bengals and their 24th-ranked defense. They’ll need a convincing performance to ease the minds of Steelers fans.
Anything short of a blowout Monday will be cause for more alarm in Pittsburgh with the playoffs three weeks away.
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