7 takeaways from another Bengals-Steelers debacle

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) talks to other players during their game against the Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) talks to other players during their game against the Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

The only question about the Cincinnati Bengals collapse against Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football was if the Steelers would check back into the game soon enough to take advantage.

Of course, they did.

RELATED: Steelers rally for 23-20 win in Cincinnati

Why was this predictable? Well there is of course the fact we’ve seen it happen with these teams before but also Cincinnati has been a bad second half team.

The Bengals came out with a great plan keeping Steelers D off balance. As has happened multiple times this season, it only lasted so long.

The Steelers are a good comeback team.

Joe Mixon getting hurt obviously didn’t help.

There’s only so much good Andy Dalton can do in one game against a good team before the magic dust runs out.

The similarities to the playoff loss were uncanny, but plenty of people have already pointed that out. 

Some thought Marvin Lewis should be fired after that game. I did not, though I might have moved on from Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict to set a precedent about the consequences of actions.

Of course, that didn’t happen, but now it’s more certain than ever Lewis’ time has run out.

Whether it happens this week or early next month, the Lewis era can’t continue in Cincinnati.

It’s had some great times. Overall, it’s a success, but last night was another reminder those days aren’t coming back — let alone be exceeded.

Not everything is on the coach. 

Some of the penalties were bad calls.

Individual players are responsible for their actions.

But there’s no indication Lewis has any idea how to make any of this better.

There’s obviously a lack of leadership and mental toughness on this team, and that falls on the coach.

The Ryan Shazier hit was a reminder the NFL too often punishes the wrong type of hits.  

I guess it’s a good thing I can’t really think of anyone who hits like he does, but spearing like that is dangerous for both players involved and it’s never flagged.

🙏 pic.twitter.com/Bpz31uDXwG— Football Players 🏈 (@FootballPIayers) December 5, 2017

I’m glad to hear positive reports coming out about his health, but I hope this is a wake-up call for him because those types of hits are way too common from him.

Shazier’s coaches have let him down letting him continue to tackle that way. That starts at the youth level and includes Ohio State and Pittsburgh.

I don’t really think the hit JuJu Smith-Schuster put on Burfict should be illegal. 

Burfict is a big scary linebacker. He knows he needs to protect himself when he’s out on the field and getting cracked like that by someone you don’t see is a possibility.

That said, if he aimed for the head I’d probably consider it excessive.

Beyond that, there’s no room for the taunting. You got the bully. Good for you. Move along now. You look petty and small when you stand over a guy like that, and he’s lucky no one came along and cleaned him out, too.

🙄 pic.twitter.com/WOaXKrMDSY— Paige Dimakos (@The_SportsPaige) December 5, 2017

I thought the hit by George Iloka on Antonio Brown in the end zone was probably accidental, though of course by rule it is a penalty. 

That was a weird play because of the way Brown contorted to get the ball. He was almost parallel to the ground trying to snatch the ball then his head ended up there as he was straightening out.

Iloka appeared to be aiming for the ball and basically Brown’s head replaced it in that space as the Bengals safety arrived.

I saw a lot of media folks tweeting about this level of violence is not what the NFL wants people to see, and they’re right. But it is probably what a majority of fans want to see.  

The violence is part of the appeal of football for fans and players -- hence Ben Roethlisberger just calling it, “AFC North football,” after the game.

That doesn’t mean anything goes, but there are hits that are illegal that probably no fan or player thinks should be (unless it happens against them and they can get free yardage).

The league has gotten rid of some unnecessarily dangerous head shots, and that’s good. But it has also basically waged a PR campaign against itself that could backfire.

Trying to redefine what’s appropriate is just as likely to turn some people away.

That includes both groups who think the game is too violent (even though it’s less so than it used to be) and those who think it’s not violent enough anymore (I don’t think they’re right either, although having to wonder if there is going to be a flag after every big hit takes away something).

Sacrificing some fandom to provide more safety for players — even when that means protecting them from themselves at times — is worth it in the grand scheme of things, but there is a limit there somewhere. I don't know if we'll reach it or not.  

Meanwhile, the Bengals are left to play out the string. 

Last night would have been more disappointing if it weren’t so predictable.

I wasn’t buying into them being playoff contenders — or to have the chance to win if they got there — so today doesn’t feel much different than yesterday where I’m sitting.

Let’s see what some of the young guys can do the rest of the way and start to speculate on who will be the coach next season since it certainly won’t be Marvin Lewis.

About the Author