The Steelers’ Inexcusable Identity Crisis Spells Doom for Ben Roethlisberger’s Last Hoorah and Proves Pittsburgh Isn’t Built the Same

These Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t the guys your father and grandfather watched. In fact, this is an entirely different team altogether. After another embarrassing loss to their AFC North rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals, it looks like the team is falling apart. Ben Roethlisberger‘s future is up in the air, but the mistakes Pittsburgh is making will send the longtime quarterback into retirement sooner rather than later.

The Steelers lack a true identity

It’s getting pretty difficult to recognize the Pittsburgh Steelers. Once a team built on playing a physical style of football, this unit lacks toughness.

The Cincinnati Bengals ran roughshod over Pittsburgh in a 41-10 blowout in Week 12. Mike Tomlin’s squad didn’t show any heart, something that’s been characteristic of Steelers teams over the years.

On offense, the Steelers usually like to establish a dominant running game to set the tone for the game. Well, they did the complete opposite against the Bengals.

Najee Harris carried the football just eight times for 23 yards. The script changed as the game started to get out of hand. However, Pittsburgh had an opportunity to ground and pound early but neglected to do so.

The front office spent a first-round pick on the Alabama product for a reason. In a must-win divisional matchup, the Steelers needed to try and set the tone early. Instead, Cincinnati forced Pittsburgh to do what they wanted them to do. The Bengals dared Ben Roethlisberger to beat them.

The defense didn’t perform any better. Joe Mixon gashed Pittsburgh for 165 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The Steel Curtain Steelers would never allow themselves to get bullied in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

The 2021 Steelers don’t look like a Mike Tomlin-coached football team, which could ultimately knock them out of the playoff hunt.

Pittsburgh is putting too much on Ben Roethlisberger

Bengals defenders sack Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger
Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers getting sacks by Cincinnati Bengals defensive players | Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers ran the ball 15 times against the Bengals while throwing the ball 41 times. That’s a recipe for disaster.

At 39 years old, Ben Roethlisberger should not throw the ball more than 40 times in a single game. It doesn’t matter if Diontae Johnson is on the field or Lynn Swann. That’s not what the Steelers do.

Roethlisberger has already shown signs of decline throughout the 2021 season, so of course, this wouldn’t end well for Pittsburgh.

Big Ben threw for 263 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions while completing just 58.5% of his passes. The Bengals jumped on the Steelers with a 21-0 second quarter, forcing Mike Tomlin’s squad to play catch up.

Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger isn’t the same quarterback he once was. He’s no longer mobile enough to escape pressure and make things happen on the fly.

Cincinnati pressured Big Ben early and often, registering three sacks and six quarterback hits. Not only is the Steelers’ signal-caller throwing the ball more than he should, but he’s also taking hits.

Ben Roethlisberger cannot carry this team to the playoffs.

Embarrassing loss could mark end of an era


Mike Tomlin Gets Brutally Honest After Steelers Embarrassing Loss to Bengals: ‘We Stunk It Up Today’

With the Week 12 victory, the Cincinnati Bengals completed the season sweep of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton played four seasons in Pittsburgh, so this game was personal for him. He had himself a day, intercepting a Ben Roethlisberger pass and taking it to the house for six.

After the game, Hilton suggested the Steelers’ run at the top of the AFC North is officially over. “A changing of the guard,” he told The Athletic.

While the Steelers aren’t out of the playoff race yet at 5-5-1, it’s getting harder to envision this team making it there.

In the past, a strong running game and physical defense would be the recipe for success in Pittsburgh. However, the Steelers don’t do any one thing particularly well. What happened against the Bengals could happen on any given week because the team lacks an identity.

Ben Roethlisberger has already admitted he can’t play football forever, and there’s a possibility the 2021 season will be his last. If it is, this could be a terrible end to a noteworthy NFL career. Chances are, this team could look much different in 2022.

The Steelers must make changes if they want to return to dominance.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference