Steelers not happy with tripping call on Gilbert
CINCINNATI — The first word that came to Marcus Gilbert's mind was “insane.”
Sure, the Steelers' work-in-progress offense made its share of mistakes to bog down more than a handful of drives during Monday's 20-10 loss to the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium, but, how they look at it, the Steelers don't need the referees to help that process along.
A controversial tripping call on Gilbert early in the third quarter of a 10-10 game erased an Antonio Brown 33-yard gain down to the Bengals' 30-yard line.
“That was a big play,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “We had all the momentum in the world right there, and the next thing you know, you are backed up.”
The momentum swung in favor of the Bengals.
An ensuing sack of Roethlisberger, a punt and an eight-play, 78-yard Cincinnati drive that resulted in a 27-yard Giovani Bernard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton gave the Bengals a 17-10 lead.
The Steelers' offense couldn't respond after that as they gained only nine more yards on eight plays until midway through the fourth quarter.
Gilbert sat at his locker with his hands in his face still in disbelief.
“I can't believe they made that call,” Gilbert said. “If I was intentionally throwing my leg out there it would've been so obvious. They blew that call bad. We had the momentum going.”
Gilbert wasn't the only one in the Steelers' locker room pointing toward that one play as being a difference-maker.
“I looked at the JumboTron, and I didn't think that was tripping,” receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. “That was one of those plays where AB went 40 yards and we were in field-goal range. That was one of four key plays in the game that determined the outcome of the game. It didn't go in our favor.”
Those other key plays were self-inflicted.
David Paulson's fumble inside the 20-yard line early in the game marked the second consecutive game that the Steelers fumbled inside the red zone in the first quarter of an eventual loss.
Two critical defensive miscues were the others.
Clark took the blame for jumping a route on tight end Tyler Eifert moments after Paulson's fumble that resulted in a 64-yard play and an eventual Bernard touchdown run.
“Last year playing Andy and watching the film I felt like when he looked somewhere that is where he was going,” Clark said. “I was waiting for a hitch-and-go. That was an extremely good play call, but I have to be better than that.”
The other was Bernard's 27-yard touchdown after Gilbert's tripping call. Bernard got lost on space on a Cover 3 underneath coverage call by defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin would not label those two big Cincinnati plays as miscommunication by his defense that had Kion Wilson and Vince Williams replacing Larry Foote at inside linebacker.
“It was good plays by them,” Tomlin said. “Sometimes you have to acknowledge that.”
Clark acknowledged that they can't keep having self-inflicted wounds if they want to win.
“I don't think those things pile up when you are losing,” Clark said. “You are losing because these things happen.”