The 2022 season has been quite a rollercoaster for the Pittsburgh Steelers through 11 weeks as they sit at 3-7 on the season.
There was the high of Week 1 in which the Steelers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in overtime and looked otherworldly defensively. Then came a four-game losing streak from Weeks 2-5 before getting back on track against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home.
Two straight losses into the bye week in Week 9 dropped the Steelers to 2-6 on the season, but for a fleeting moment the black and gold appeared to turn things around coming out of the bye week with a 20-10 win over the New Orleans Saints to move to 3-6.
Sunday’s loss to the Bengals though was more of the same for the Steelers: a few steps forward, one step back. The latest step back might be the final nail in the coffin for the Steelers’ 2022 season, even for a team very much under construction and continuing to build in a transition season.
Around the NFL writer Dan Hanzus, on NFL.com Tuesday morning, believes this might be it for the Steelers on the year as the loss to the Bengals showed more real concerns for the black and gold, in terms of turning the season around. Hanzus, who writes a weekly power ranking featuring all 32 NFL teams, kept the Steelers in the bottom half of the league Tuesday, ranking Pittsburgh 25th overall again behind the likes of the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns while sitting just ahead of the Las Vegas Raiders and Indianapolis Colts, whom the Steelers play on Monday Night Football in Week 12.
“The Steelers remain very much under construction,” Hanzus writes regarding the latest power rankings for the Steelers on NFL.com. “Pittsburgh had its two longest offensive touchdown plays of the season in Sunday’s loss to the Bengals — a 19-yard touchdown run by Najee Harris and a 24-yard touchdown catch by George Pickens — but the Kenny Pickett-led attack also disappeared for extended stretches, most noticeably during a third quarter in which Pittsburgh failed to register a first down.
“The defense was similarly scattershot. The Steelers constantly pressured Joe Burrow and grabbed two interceptions, but they still surrendered touchdown drives of 79, 92 and 93 yards despite the absence of Ja’Marr Chase (hip) and Joe Mixon (concussion) from the Bengals’ lineup.”
The Steelers showed serious signs of improvement offensively against the Bengals, especially in the first half as Najee Harris ripped off the 19-yard touchdown run, while Kenny Pickett pushed the football down the field with great success and fellow rookie George Pickens took over for stretches.
That all came while the Steelers defense couldn’t stop Joe Burrow and the Bengals, who — as Hanzus points out — were without Ja’Marr Chase coming into the game and then lost Joe Mixon to a concussion in the first half.
With the Steelers defense unable to stop the Bengals outside of the two interceptions, it made it that much more difficult for the Steelers offense, which seemingly made no adjustments at the half and couldn’t do anything significant with a pair of short fields. Coming out of the half, the Steelers offense went three-and-out three straight times and had just 52 yards on 27 plays before the final scoring drive.
It’s a team very much under construction, but Sunday’s loss to the Bengals was rather discouraging, especially considering how the second half went following a strong first half.