It’s easy to point and laugh at the failure that is the 2019 Cincinnati Bengals’ season. They’re on track to have the first overall pick in 2020 and there’s a distinct possibility they end the season winless.
That would make losing to Cincinnati Sunday all the more embarrassing. It’d be one of those “stick a fork in ’em” games in a hotly contested AFC Wild Card race. And the locker room knows they can’t chalk this one up as a victory, especially given their horrendous performance versus the Browns.
“They’re going to try and fight for their lives,” Cam Heyward told reporters via the team site yesterday. “I know they’re out of the playoffs officially. but they got guys fighting for spots, a new quarterback in Finley, if they get AJ [Green] back, we gotta be ready for him as well.”
It’s unclear if Green, their best receiver, will be available this weekend. He nearly hit the field for the first time two weeks ago but suffered a setback with his injured ankle that’s continued to keep him out.
Even without him and a rookie quarterback who certainly doesn’t look like the future of the franchise, they took the Oakland Raiders to the wire, losing by just seven, 17-10. Although the team is in clear “tank” mode, as Heyward said, players are fighting for jobs for next season under first-year head coach Zac Taylor.
“We gotta come out this week, practice harder, because we’ve got another divisional opponent again,” Terrell Edmunds said, echoing Heyward’s statement. “We can’t slip up again.”
Edmunds will look to be part of a defense that gets back to its splashy ways. For the first time since Week 1 against New England, the Steelers failed to force a turnover in the Browns’ loss. Edmunds himself is certainly looking for more splash plays. He’s the only defensive player on this team to start multiple games and fail to intercept a pass, force a fumble, recover one, or register a sack. The next player on that list is Daniel McCullers, who has played just 86 snaps. Edmunds? 612 snaps.
“Very dangerous,” Edmunds said when asked how dangerous a winless team can be. “You can’t overlook anybody in this league because everyone is a pro.”
It was only a few weeks ago the then-winless Miami Dolphins raced out to a 14-0 lead so Steelers’ players, and fans, know how deceptive records can be.
If there was a week to get back on track, it’s certainly this one. Rookie QB Ryan Finley has been abysmal since taking over for Andy Dalton, completing under half his passes to one touchdown, two picks, and seven sacks. The offensive line remains a mess, something the Steelers took advantage of in their first matchup, while the defense is only marginally better.
But there are no “gimmies” in the NFL. Especially when you’re talking about a Steelers’ team who isn’t anyone’s selection to be Super Bowl champs.