PITTSBURGH — The Cincinnati Bengals made a coaching change this offseason in hopes of finding a spark for a franchise without a playoff win in nearly three decades.
What happened in Pittsburgh on Monday night shows the Bengals have a lot more problems to address. The Bengals were routed by the Steelers >27-3 in a loss that was historic on multiple levels.
Under first-year coach Zac Taylor, 0-4 Cincinnati is off to its worst start since 2008, when the Bengals opened with eight consecutive defeats. In the 100th meeting between the teams, Cincinnati dropped its ninth consecutive game to Pittsburgh, the longest streak in series history. And the task of rebuilding the roster might be more difficult than anticipated before the season started.
And any slim hopes of a playoff push likely ended at Heinz Field. Over the past 10 seasons, the 28 teams to start a season 0-4 missed the postseason.
Describe the game in two words: Complete domination. For the second time this season, the Bengals were absolutely demolished. This one was much more painful because it came against a big rival which was also winless entering Week 4.
Troubling trend: At this point, it isn’t a trend as it is a fact. The Bengals’ offensive line needs a lot of work. Quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked a career-high eight times and was harassed all night. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Dalton was pressured on 17 of 44 dropbacks. At this point, there’s no easy fix. Left tackle Andre Smith is the third-string option while second-stringer Cordy Glenn has been out with a concussion all season. And 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams is out with a shoulder injury. The rest of the linemen are the best options Taylor and assistant coach Jim Turner have at his disposal. Dalton has been sacked 19 times this season, the highest total for the first four games of the season, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Biggest hole in the game plan: Pittsburgh backup quarterback Mason Rudolph didn’t have many downfield targets against the Bengals. And he didn’t need them. In the first half, he averaged 1.2 air yards per throw and was still 17 of 18 passing for 132 yards and one touchdown. When the game was in question, Pittsburgh kept using running backs Jaylen Samuels and James Conner in the passing game and Cincinnati had no answer. The Steelers also were the third straight Bengals opponent to go from sideline-to-sideline. Like San Francisco and Buffalo, they enjoyed success.
Eye-popping Next Gen Stat: The Bengals couldn’t get any pass rush off the edge against Pittsburgh. Defensive ends Sam Hubbard and Carlos Dunlap averaged more than 5 yards of separation from the quarterback, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. The league average is 4.49 yards. The Bengals were also credited with zero quarterback hurries.