The Bengals defense played so well early but the two problems that have dogged it all year—the big plays and poor tackling—caught up to them in the 35-7 loss in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers didn't take dead aim on the undermanned Bengals secondary, but the 45-yard pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown broke the game open in the sense it led to the Steelers' first score and it was the ninth pass of at least 30 yards the Bengals have allowed in the past six games.
A 45-yard pass interference penalty on safety Chris Crocker working on wide receiver Mike Wallace set up the next touchdown and the Steelers then left it to an offensive line that pushed back the Bengals in the running game. The Steelers backs also frustrated the Bengals by spinning off the scrum at the line and making second- and third-effort runs.
"It seemed like we were in our gaps, but the running back would just bounce around trying to find a hole and found a spot and he hit it on us," said defensive tackle Domata Peko. "It's just being disciplined. We have to get better at that.
"I think we're just being too quick and leaving our gap and (the back) is finding it. There's a fine line between running to the ball and getting there and playing in your gap."
Outside linebacker Thomas Howard said, "It seemed we'd have him bottled up and somehow he'd spin around and find a seam outside."
The Bengals strung out running back Rashard Mendenhall on a sweep, but he cut back underneath middle linebacker Rey Maualuga and ran through defensive lineman Robert Geathers's tackle at the goal line that made it 14-0.
Wallace scored the last touchdown on a 19-yard pass on which Wallace made everyone look like they were standing still in space on a quick route through a zone.
» The Bengals converted on third down just two out of 11 times, their worst effort since the back-to-back outings against Denver and San Francisco in the second and third games of the season.
» It doesn't get any easier for the offense. This Sunday the Bengals will play the NFL's second-best defense for the second straight week. Pittsburgh held the Bengals to their second lowest output of the season (232 yards), which made the Steelers the No. 1 defense this week. The Texans replaced them at No. 2 and the Bengals get their shot against Houston at Paul Brown Stadium.
» Wide receiver A.J. Green took over the NFL rookie lead with 50 catches and his 832 yards continue to lead all rookies. He needs 12 more yards to pass Isaac Curtis's 843 of 1973 and 35 more to take down Darnay Scott's 866 of 1994...After that it's Eddie Brown's 942 of 1985 and Cris Collinsworth's club record of 1,009 from 1981.