Pittsburgh Steelers: Another Defensive Meltdown Leaves Pittsburgh in Division Basement
The Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1) are in last place in the AFC North after being dominated in a 41-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. It was Pittsburgh's most lopsided defeat since 2016, and the Steelers don't have much time to regroup before hosting the division-leading Ravens (8-3) on Sunday.
All-Pro linebacker J.J. Watt admitted that the Steelers have major issues that must be addressed immediately.
"It wasn't something any of us are proud of," Watt said, via Brooke Pryor of ESPN. "You never want to have that feeling coming out of a game. We have to stop this before it continues to unravel and become a bigger issue than what it already is.
"We can't keep playing like this. It's absolutely embarrassing."
Pittsburgh's defense is being shredded, giving up 41 points in back-to-back games. Head Coach Mike Tomlin didn't try to downplay his concern either after Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28 carries, 165 yards, two touchdowns) had more than 100 yards before halftime.
"It's alarming, it is," Tomlin said. "We're not trying to play it cool by any stretch. We don't play football like that, but we have been our last couple of weeks, so some adjustments need to be made."
Beating the rival Ravens would get the Steelers back over .500 and boost their fading playoff hopes. But losing another AFC North game might put Pittsburgh in a hole it can't climb out of. The Steelers have never had a losing record in 14 seasons under Tomlin.
Asked if Pittsburgh's defense was the worst he had played on during his 11 years in Pittsburgh, tackle Cam Heyward didn't dispute that notion.
"I don't know, I'm probably going to say yes," Heyward said. "I don't look at the past. All I can do is worry about the present. "There's a lot of football to be played, but if we do what we did out there today, we won't win another damn game."
Cincinnati Bengals: Sweeping Pittsburgh Is Landmark Win for Surging Bengals
With convincing victories over the Raiders and Steelers the past two weeks, the Bengals (7-4) have seriously improved their playoff chances.
Cincinnati hasn't made the playoffs since 2015, but the Bengals believe they can do something special this season. Beating the Steelers on Sunday gave Cincinnati its first season sweep over Pittsburgh since 2009. Dating back to last season, Cincinnati is on a three-game winning streak over Pittsburgh.
It was sweet revenge for former Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton, who had a pick-six for the Bengals against Ben Roethlisberger
"Beating these guys twice, and for some of these guys three times, it's a big changing of the guard, in our opinion," Hilton said via Joe Rutter of the TribLive.com. "It's giving us a lot of confidence. Guys are excited to see how the rest of the season plays out.
"When I came here, I came here on a mission. It was to help turn this team around, it was to build this team up. And we're taking the right strides. I like where we're heading."
Hilton is just one of several defensive standouts for the Bengals. Defensive end Trey Hendrickson had another strong performance Sunday and is playing at an All-Pro level.
After beating the Ravens in Baltimore in October, the Bengals suffered a letdown the following week and were upset by the New York Jets. Cincinnati is riding high again with young stars like Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase, who won a national championship together at LSU and have carried that winning mentality into the NFL.
The Bengals will host the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, and Burrow thinks his team is ready to finish the season strong.
"We have higher aspirations than beating the Steelers right now," Burrow said. "We're excited about where we're at, but we're not satisfied."
Cleveland Browns: Right Tackle Jack Conklin's Injury Could Be Season-Ending
Not only did the Browns (6-6) lose to the Ravens on Sunday night, they may have lost starting right tackle Jack Conklin for the season with a knee injury, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported.
Losing Conklin would be another issue for Cleveland's offense that simply isn't scoring enough lately. The Browns have averaged just nine points over their last three games, and know they must score more to make a successful playoff push.
"It is very frustrating," Head Coach Kevin Stefanksi said. "To not score enough, it's always a combination of things-staying on the field on third down, trying to run the ball effectively and getting in the red zone, all of those things. But we're just not doing a good enough job, and that starts with me."
The Browns have a bye in Week 13 before they host the Ravens in two weeks. The Browns know that another loss to the Baltimore would seriously damage their chances to win the division and make the playoffs.
"I think we totally realize where we are, but we have to focus on this next one, which is Baltimore, and then take one game at a time," Stefanski said. "There's no sense in looking much farther than that."