CINCINNATI — Good thing Mike Tomlin challenged his players on the critical nature of meeting the Cincinnati Bengals.
Imagine what might have happened if he pretended it wasn’t a big game.
You thought the first 45 minutes of what happened in Los Angeles last week was embarrassing? This made that performance look like a coaches’ clinic.
“If we do what we did out there today, we won’t win another game,” defensive end Cam Heyward said.
If the Steelers were intent on paying back the Bengals for what happened at Heinz Field or trying to end a two-game winless streak or merely just wanting to remain relevant in the AFC North, they had a funny way of showing it. They were manhandled and exposed by the Bengals, 41-10, at Paul Brown Stadium, matching the worst defeat in Tomlin’s 15-year tenure.
Coming on the heels of their 41-34 loss to the Chargers, it’s the most points the Steelers have allowed in back to-back games since Tomlin became coach in 2007. The old record was 74, set in 2013 in losses to the Chicago Bears (40-23) and Minnesota Vikings (34-27) in Weeks 3-4.
“You can’t keep playing like this,” said outside linebacker T.J. Watt. “It’s absolutely embarrassing.”
If Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd thought the Steelers quit in a 24-10 loss in Week 3 at Heinz Field, he must have thought they even failed to show up on Sunday. It was 31-3 at halftime, and it was no accident. The defense couldn’t stop running back Joe Mixon, who had 117 of his career-high 165 yards in the first half; or quarterback Joe Burrow, who completed 10 of his first 11 passes for 117 yards.
“I’m not going to make any excuses,” Heyward said. “We sucked out there today. We dropped the ball.”
It was the Bengals’ third consecutive victory over the Steelers, the first time they have done that since 1990. If you’re wondering if the tide has turned in a series dominated by the Steelers, the Bengals (7-4) have outscored the Steelers in two games this season 65-20.