The Pittsburgh Steelers lost two different things on Sunday, First, they lost their game to the Cincinnati Begnals, which just might eliminate the Steelers from AFC North contention, even this early in the season. They've had success in the playoffs before as a wildcard team, but there is more bad news. Le'Veon Bell suffered a gruesome knee injury Sunday, one that could sideline him for a significant period of time. It appears to be a severe MCL injury, and Bell will be out for some time.
If the whole game went like the first drive did, Pittsburgh would have smoked the Bengals. Ben Roethlisberger seemed to be rust free, driving down the field effortlessly and delivering a touchdown to Antonio Brown. Big Ben didn't do much else right the rest of the game. He finished 28-of-45 with just the one touchdown to Brown and three interceptions, continuing his career trend of playing bad in games where he returns from injury. Two of the interceptions were bad decisions; one was a forced deep ball to Brown and the other was a ball that Roethlisberger should have thrown out of bounds (it ended up giving the Bengals a go-ahead field goal late in the fourth quarter). Then, on his next throw, Roethlisberger made perhaps his worst throw of the game, all but sealing the game for Cincinnati.
The defense deserves absolutely no blame for the loss. When Bell went down, it's almost like the defensive unit went into their Roethlisberger-less mode, where they knew it was all up to them. They played fantastic all throughout the second half, as the only touchdown they conceded came when Big Ben threw a pick and gave the Bengals great field position. Antwon Blake finally had an impressive game at cornerback, as demonstrated on this interception of Andy Dalton in the end zone. Mike Mitchell intercepted Dalton on the third play of Cincinnati's next drive. Cam Heyward only recorded three tackles, but he blocked a field goal, which would have definitely been the play of the game if Pittsburgh came out on top.
When the Steelers were without Roethlisberger, it was the defense (yes, the defense that everyone has bashed all season long) who sparked the team in both victories. In the games that Bell will miss, it will be the defense who will have to step up. Certainly Roethlisberger will shake off the rust and return the passing offense to elite status in the next few matchups. Unlike when Roethlisberger went down, the Steelers actually have a proven backup for Bell in DeAngelo Williams, who led the AFC in rushing yards through two weeks when he started earlier in the season. So, the Steelers will probably be in worse shape heading forward, but not by much.