Quick Hits: Missed Chances For Offense; Misdirection For Defense

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) runs over Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Andrew Billings (99) during the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Tom Puskar)
Steelers running back James Conner makes a move.

PITTSBURGH - When the Bengals fell behind, 17-3, after the opening drive of Monday's second half, it was no secret how the Steelers intended to finish off their 27-3 victory.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked a career-high eight times, the most since he led them to an Opening Day win over the Jets in 2016 despite seven sacks.

Asked how his body felt after the most punishing game of his career, Dalton sounded more hurt by the 0-4 start and a 57.4 passer rating, his lowest in two seasons on 21 of 37 for 171 yards.

"We have to figure out who we are," Dalton said. "We've got the guys on this team. We just have to get our minds and have the attention to detail and all the things you need to have. This is a big week for us."

- Head coach Zac Taylor put the blame squarely on the offense. His unit failed to score a touchdown on three red-zone trips and failed to score a touchdown for the first time anywhere since the first two games of the 2017 season while not converting on 10 of 14 third downs.

"To be quite honest, it starts with me. I've got to make the standard higher than it is," Taylor said. "I think there are thing I can improve on. No excuse can be made.

"We can't get our defense off the field because our offense won't let them. Three points. That's unacceptable. To me, we're not helping them out."

📸 Check out some of the best snapshots from the Bengals' Week 4 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

- The word floated around the press box Monday night that the game featured tight end Tyler Eifert's first dropped pass since 2105. He couldn't have picked a worse time. It came in the end zone on a third-and-five from the Steelers 10 and the Bengals looking to go up 7-0 after linebacker Nick Vigil forced a fumble that safety Jessie Bates III recovered at the 15.

"We had a chance," Dalton said.

Eifert had no problem beating linebacker Mark Barron down the seam and Dalton threw it up for him, but it went off his fingertips.

- Taylor characterized the sacks as one on a miscommunication and the other seven as people getting beat. The first one was the miscommunication and knocked the Bengals out of field-goal range on their first drive and was authored by blitzing rookie linebacker Devin Bush.

"We challenged our guys to win one-on-ones and they won the one-on-ones," Taylor said.

- Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, on the other hand, didn't get touched in his second NFL start while hitting 24 of 28 passes with a blistering 124.6 passer rating. But many were screens, check-downs and shovel passes to running backs in motion. His longest throw of the night was a 43-yarder to wide-open wide receiver Diontae Johnson for a touchdown.

But it was those flips that killed the Bengals softly. It was as if the Steelers went into the lab this week and created a whole new offense for Rudolph. Running back Jaylen Samuels shoveled it three times to the other back out of the Wild Cat formation for 31 yards and a passer rating of 109.7.

"It took a while to adjust to it as you could tell," said Bengals linebacker Nick Vigil. "They did a good job of making it easy on the quarterback to take it out of his hands a little bit. But that's something we didn't adjust to very well. And it hurt us."

Vigil said it's no surprise that teams keep running the misdirections and screens that the 49ers ran at them in a 41-17 loss on Sept. 15.

"That's been the theme. A lot of misdirection, perimeter runs. A lot of stuff outside," Vigil said. "We have to figure it out quick if we want to turn around the season."

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