Third down woes continue for Steelers in loss to Bengals
By Ralph N. Paulk
Published: Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, 10:45 p.m.
Ike Taylor wasn't in the mood for excuses after the Steelers once again faded like leg-weary distance runners in the fourth quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on Monday night.
The veteran cornerback didn't want to hear how the offense sputtered as if it had blown a gasket. It didn't matter that the Steelers were a lackluster 3 for 12 on third downs to put the defense in the unenviable position of keeping alive their faint hopes of victory.
All that mattered to Taylor was that the Bengals plowed through the Steelers in the fourth quarter to make the clock an ally. The Titans did the same thing in beating the Steelers in the season opener.
Yet, the Steelers continue to suggest things will get better when they face the Bears on Sunday night at Heinz Field.
Taylor didn't mince words amid a frosty visitor's dressing room following a 20-10 defeat to their AFC North rival. He made it clear the Steelers again dropped their hands while the Bengals shoved them against the ropes with a stubborn run game, which outrushed the Steelers 42-0 in the fourth.
“I'm getting tired of us saying we have the players to turn things around,” Taylor said. “We have to put our feet down, and just do it. In times like this, you have to stand up. We have to play with an attitude. You have to play with a chip on your shoulder every play.”
James Harrison, the former Steelers linebacker, recalled watching the Steelers' offense punish the opposition in the fourth quarter during his 10 seasons in Pittsburgh. This time, he watched as his new team flipped the script to drop the Steelers to 0-2 for the first time during head coach Mike Tomlin's tenure.
“It felt good to see the offense come through at the end with a few first downs to keep the clock rolling and give the defense a little of a breather,” said Harrison, who didn't register a single tackle in limited duty.
Taylor challenged the offense to pick it up. But he focused primarily on an overworked defense that has withered down the stretch.
“It's frustrating to lose the way we're losing,” Taylor said. “I'm not used to it. I don't want to get use to it.
“Realistically, we've got to get teams in third-and-long situations. They did what they needed to do to win the game, and we did what we didn't need to do to lose it.”
In the past, the Steelers did what they wanted against the Bengals. Mostly, they exerted their will in the fourth quarter with a ground game that more times than not influenced the outcome.
“We'll be fine because the good thing about it is we have next week to straighten things out,” linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. “We can do more; we just haven't shown it yet.”
Safety Troy Polamalu also is confident the defense can find its second wind.
“I believe in all the guys wearing this uniform,” he said. “But believing in it and going out there and doing it may be two different things.”
Unlike Taylor and Polamalu, running back Isaac Redman is holding the offense accountable for how the opposition has seized the moment to exploit a seemingly leg-weary defense.
“When you're 3 of 12 on third down, you don't have to ask who won the game,” Redman said. “It's not one person. It's not one problem. It's a whole group effort.”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.
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