At half time of the Bengals-Steelers game I discovered that Robert DeNiro is about to star in a movie with Justin Bieber, collaborationist Ludacris, Ryan “Kardashian Promoter” Seacrest, and Amare “Yep, That One” Stoudemire. So, the best thing I can say about the Bengals was that they put that disappointment in context.
Apparently the first team to score in this series has lost each of the past seven games; I can only assume that the Bengals knew this and really committed. Somebody hadn’t told A-Dalt or Gresham, so when the tight-end took a catch to put as seven up on the first drive, AJ Green was on hand to negate the play with a peculiarly-called penalty (it wouldn’t be the last.) Special teams certainly knew about the curse and thoughtfully botched the resulting field goal. Just to make absolute certain the curse didn’t get us, special teams also fumbled a punt return (Pittsburgh scored) and then had a punt returned for a touchdown. Admittedly in the latter play Andrew “Slim Shins” Hawkins was outrageously blocked in the back but only a real newbie would be surprised at the Steelers having ridiculous refereeing decisions changing the game in their favour.
I, of course, loathe the Steelers. Their quarter back has been accused of multiple rapes and he’s still the player on the team I would most be able to spend three hours with. They’ve mastered the art of winning in the AFC North, it’s a simple formula: hire a good-looking coach and draft ugly players. The Bengals haven’t quite mastered it yet, which is why potential Hall of Fame talent like Carson Palmer, Chad OchoCinco, and Terrell Owens ultimately failed (too handsome, clearly) but Jerome Harrison (missing a chromosome) and Brett Keisel (looks like the guy who lives on the bottom step of my subway entrance) keep ratcheting up Super Bowl wins. Conversely, of course, in the AFC East the formula is ugly coach (Belichick/Ryan), handsome quarterback (Brady/Sanchez). This is why Carson Palmer wanted to go to Miami. The only formula in the AFC South, of course, is to draft Peyton Manning. There is no known formula for a successful NFL team in the AFC West.
I digress, of course, but what is there to say? Though AJ Green’s touchdown (along with four Steeler scores, it occurred in the second quarter) gave a smidge of hope and running back Cedric Benson got off to a strong start, there was little else to smile about. There is much scholarly debate about whether the Mayans or the Babylonians invented the concept of “zero” but certainly (Green aside) the Bengals receiving corps at the least earned the right to be part of the discussion. Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Huber are normally rocks, but Sunday they were more sedimentary than igneous (that’s a slap down for all the geologists out there; I have no idea if it makes sense).
By contrast the Steelers just seemed like winners. Running back Rashard Mendenhall improbably had more touchdowns than carries. (What, that’s impossible? Well, it seemed like it.) These blips will happen: the Steelers themselves were trounced 35-7 by the Ravens in their opening game. Dalton, Green et al will be expected to struggle now that the college season is over, but they’ve been exceeding expectations for three months now. A beat up secondary badly needs some rest and some quality minutes from Brandon Ghee, the O-line has to come out swinging, and special teams absolutely cannot throw us into a hole the way they did.
In the AFC North, it’s never losing to your rival that determines your season—it’s how you respond. We’ll find out against the Texans.
Bengals 7, Steelers 35