The Bengals have lost four in a row to start the season. The loss to the Steelers was tough and now the Bengals have to try to move forward with an 0-4 record. Here are five things learned from week 4.
1. Never Take a Healthy O-Line for Granted
Cincinnati fans likely already knew the offensive line would struggle against the Steelers. It wasn’t a great line to start with and it just made things worse when injuries piled up. They have shown flashes of being solid, but mostly have struggled this season. On Monday night, the Bengals allowed eight sacks and didn’t really get much done in the running game either.
The line played very poorly, which was one of the main reasons for the loss. There isn’t much hope for the Bengals with one starting tackle being Andre Smith and the other being Bobby Hart. With a healthy Cordy Glenn and Jonah Williams, next year will be better.
2. Andy Dalton and the Playmakers Were Off
The offensive line deserves a lot of blame, but the rest of the offense didn’t look much better. Dalton was just 21 of 37 passing for 171 yards. Joe Mixon led the team in rushing yards with 62, while Auden Tate was the leading receiver with four catches for 50 yards. This is not production that will lead to many wins.
There have been some bright spots for the offense this year. Dalton has been among the leaders for passing yards and John Ross has been among the leaders for receiving yards for the season. Tate has stepped up this season in his opportunities, but the rest of the skill-players are underperforming. Taylor will need to get creative to make the offense work.
3. Pressuring a Young Quarterback is Imperative
Cincinnati had a clear defensive strategy against the Steelers. Sit back and guard against the big play. They allowed a lot of throws underneath to Mason Rudolph and he carved up the defense. The Steelers did get one big play, on a pass to Diontae Johnson, but that was pretty much it. Defensively, the Bengals didn’t even really blitz or pressure Rudolph nearly enough.
This strategy clearly didn’t work for the Bengals, who allowed the Steelers to score 27 points. Rudolph was 24 of 28 passing for 229 yards and two touchdowns. James Conner only had 42 rushing yards, but added 83 receiving yards and a touchdown. For future matchups with the Steelers, the Bengals need to find something different to do on defense.
4. The Secondary Play Improved
While the defensive strategy was pretty poorly planned, the secondary actually improved. They limited big plays as a whole, which they were asked to do. Jesse Bates played better than he has all season and had a fumble recovery. Brandon Wilson helped stop the Steelers on a key fourth down by getting to James Conner before he could convert.
This does not mean everything was great. It was far from it. They had a big miscue on the Johnson touchdown catch. The players not named Bates and Wilson still have a long way to go to reach their potential. It was a good, small stepping stone for the future.
5. The Bengals Will Have a Top Five Pick
Had the Bengals won on Monday night, it was plausible to think that maybe they could win a few games over the latter part of the season. After the drubbing by the Steelers, it is even more apparent that the Bengals will top out at about four wins. This may not be the worst thing for the future of the franchise though.
The Bengals can get an early first-round pick and build a team that Zac Taylor would want. If he chooses, he can select one of the many talked about quarterbacks in the 2020 NFL Draft class. The Bengals could then improve with a healthy offensive line and a quarterback that is well-equipped to run Taylor’s offense.