Skip to main content

'An absolute disgrace'

10-13-02, 4:05 p.m.

UPDATED: 10-13-02, 6:55 p.m.


The winless Bengals had hoped to make a statement Sunday as they headed into their bye week.

But the only statement that mattered came from fullback Lorenzo Neal standing in the rubble of a 34-7 blowout to the Steelers and the debris of an 0-6 start.

"We're the laughingstock of the league. It's embarrassing," Neal said. I can't believe this man. . .For a professional team to do this to play this consistent week in and week out there's no excuse for it."

Asked if his team has thrown in the towel, Neal said, "It's a disgrace. An absolute disgrace."

If Bengals President Mike Brown wants to make a coaching change, he now has the ugly loss to go along with the time of next week's bye. This one was before a dazed sell-out crowd of 63,900 of Bengals' and Steelers' fans at Paul Brown Stadium that didn't think it could get this bad.

"That's something I don't have to worry about," said LeBeau, when asked if he thinks he'll get fired Monday after losing for the 13th time in 15 games. "He either will or he won't. That question will be answered for me."

Brown couldn't be reached immediately following a rout that puts the Bengals nearer the record book. They have been outscored, 181-51, and are averaging 8.5 points per game, which translates into a NFL-record low 136 points for 16 games. They are giving up 30 points a game, which computes to a franchise-high 480 points, seven away from the third most of all-time given up by the 1980 New Orleans Saints.

"Yes," said defensive captain Takeo Spikes when asked if he agreed with Neal. "I'm just to a point right now where I can just say thank God for the Bible. I'm mentally drained. I know a lot of other guys are mentally drained."

It was an equal opportunity rout. Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna, who made four turnovers, called it his worst game since he started playing in fifth grade in taking responsibility for the loss. But in a bad season, the defense allowed a season-high 408 yards in letting running back Jerome Bettis and the NFL's No. 21 rushing attack to find its feet with 211 yards.

Then Steelers rookie wide receiver Antwaan Randle El joined the growing list of players who have used the Bengals as extras for their break-out games, whether they are rookies or 10-year veterans. He returned the opening kickoff of the

second half 99 yards for a touchdown to help give quarterback Tommy Maddox his first win as a NFL starting quarterback 10 years after he was drafted.

"I think it was a little bit of both," said Steelers strong safety Lee Flowers when asked if the 2-3 Steelers are that good or if the Bengals are that bad. "They didn't play well today, let's face it. We had the opportunity to make some plays and we came up with them. That's our job. That's a team right there that is struggling."

The Bengals did manage to score their first offensive touchdown at home this season with 15 seconds left in the third quarter when running back Corey Dillon bulled in from two yards out, but it only mattered for the record keepers because this one was over early.

Dillon did finish with 57 yards on 17 carries to move into 40th on the NFL's all-time rushing list, but it was Bettis who carried the day with his 10th 100-yard game against Cincinnati in 109 yards on 21 carries.

Kitna underthrew two passes that Flowers gobbled up, overthrew Peter Warrick for an end-zone interception, and fumbled away another. The Pittsburgh offense translated three first-half turnovers into 17 points while taking a 24-0 half-time lead.

Kitna, who has one touchdown and seven interceptions this season, could muster only 222 yards on 23 of 35 passing.

"I don't recall making as poor of decisions as I did today in the first half of the football game," Kitna said. "On a football team that's struggling, I expect to make a difference to keep us in the football game, and today I did things to basically take us out of the football game."

Kitna said he shouldn't have thrown the first pick to wide receiver Danny Farmer down the middle and that he should have gone elsewhere. The second interception came when he tried to beat pressure from the left side, threw hurriedly without his feet set, and hung it up short of wide receiver Peter Warrick at the Steelers 21.

"There were times you could see Kitna's face that he didn't know what we were running," Flowers said.

The Bengals continued to come up with new ways to get blown out in a season they have been outscored by 106 points alone in the first half.

This time it was the Steelers outside linebacker Joey Porter beating rookie left tackle Levi Jones around the edge and batting the ball out of Kitna's hands into the arms of nose tackle Casey Hampton. The 320-pound Hampton rumbled 36 yards inside the Bengals 10 before Dillon jumped on his back and rode him out of bounds.

Moments later Maddox flipped a four-yard touchdown pass to fullback Dan Kreider to make it 24-0 with six minutes left in the half.

Maddox, working 10 years between starting stints, knocked his cobwebs all over the soft Bengals' defense on 16 of 25 passing for 216 yards. Kitna couldn't take advantage of a Steeler defense that had allowed its most points in the first four games of a season since 1989.

On the second interception, Kitna had a first-and-10 from the Steelers 44 early in the second quarter and Pittsburgh leading, 10-0. He tried a pump fake short, but didn't set his feet and didn't get anything on the ball.

Flowers was able to camp under the floater, and four plays later, Bettis broke through the right side of the Cincinnati line on a sweep for a 41-yard touchdown run five minutes into the second half. Free safety Cory Hall got kicked outside and rookie free safety Marquand Manuel missed Bettis in the open field when he went for his juke.

Bettis, who finished the half with 75 yards on 10 carries, hadn't had a carry longer than 16 yards this season.

The Bengals had a shot to take the lead with a crisp opening drive (Kitna hit four of his first five passes for 36 yards) that stalled on the three straight passes. But Neil Rackers came up short on a 46-yard field goal try and the Steelers' troubled offense didn't look back on its first series of the game.

Pittsburgh took a 7-0 lead seven minutes into the game with the Bengals now being outscored, 40-7, in the first quarter this season

The Bengals instantly gave up what has become their weekly wide-open big pass. This time it was Steelers wide receiver Plaxico Burress running so far open through a zone defense that he had time to stop and come back for an underthrown ball by Maddox for a 36-yard gain. Burress nearly had his 100-yard day on his first five catches, finishing the half with 97 yards and finishing the game with 149 on eight catches.

With Bengals middle linebacker Brian Simmons dressed but not playing the first series with a pinched nerve in his neck, the Steelers went right up the middle with Bettis. "The Bus," made connections for 22 yards on five carries on the first drive with the last one coming from a yard out with 6:54 left in the first quarter.

With Farmer playing for the first time since the opener because of a knee injury, the Bengals made wide receiver Michael Westbrook inactive because of a coaching decision. Westbrook, who signed a three-year, $4.5 million deal back in July, walked out of the stadium 90 minutes before the game saying little. Asked if he was going to request his release, Westbrook said, "That's an inside matter."

It was a day of frustration. Cornerback Artrell Hawkins got into a shouting match with a fan as they walked off the field.

"He called us a bunch of jackasses. I was defending myself and my teammates," Hawkins said. "I told him not to get tough behind that wall where security can hold you back. I was wrong, I shouldn't have done it. But that shows you how high the frustration level was today. That wouldn't have bothered me 99 out of 100 times."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.