Steelers continue to have issues as Bengals pull off upset

Let this sink in for a second: The defending champions are 1-2.

The Steelers were a 4th and 10 stop away from being 2-1 when they were up 20-15 with only 36 seconds remaining in Cincinnati on Sunday. But Bengals’ QB Carson Palmer avoided a sack and found Brian Leonard on an 11-yard completion to set Cincinnati up with a 1st and 4 from the Pittsburgh 4-yard line. Two plays later, Palmer found Andre Caldwell on a four-yard touchdown pass to put the Bengals up for good 23-20.

The theme continues for the Steelers. While they were able to rush for 102 yards, they only managed 3.6 YPC and essentially weren’t that effective. When they were leading 20-9 late in the third quarter, they couldn’t put Cincinnati away because they couldn’t milk the clock.

Pittsburgh won a Super Bowl last year despite the lack of a running game, but teams can’t consistently win when they can’t run the football. Some are going to look at the stat sheet and think that the Steelers were effective on the ground because they rushed for over 100 yards. But that simply wasn’t the case and it shows because the Bengals were able to score two fourth quarter touchdowns to earn the victory.

Willie Parker had a decent game, but when it was time for the Steelers to grind out the clock in the second half, he was much less effective. That caused Pittsburgh’s defense to be on the field too long in the fourth and Cincinnati capitalized.

But let’s give credit where credit is due – the Bengals’ deserved the victory. They came up with a huge play in the third quarter when a miscommunication between Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes led to a Jonathan Joseph 31-yard interception return for a touchdown. They hung around and hung around, waited for its moment to seize a win and then did so.

What’s amazing is that the Bengals could be 3-0 if it weren’t for Brandon Stokley’s fluke touchdown reception in Week 1. What’s even more amazing is that Cincinnati could be 3-0 and would have wins over the Packers (in Green Bay no less) and the Steelers.

There’s something about this Bengals team. They have an underrated defense, a healthy Palmer, a rejuvenated Cedric Benson and are finally playing inspired under Marvin Lewis.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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