sackedSACKED—Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback Andy Dalton is sacked by Steelers linebacker Lamar Woodley in their game on Sunday, Dec. 23, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. (Courier Photo/Thomas Sabol)

In one of many terrible games this season the Steelers offense once again didn’t show up and despite a valiant effort by the defense, the Cincinnati Bengals knocked Pittsburgh out of the playoffs 13-10, making this weekend’s game against Cleveland, 5-10, critical.

Why? Because the loss dropped the Steelers below the 500 mark at 7-8 which means a loss to the lowly Browns would give Coach Mike Tomlin his first losing season at 7-9 and the Steelers first losing record since 2003 when they finished 6-10 under Bill Cower.

The Browns, after playing three outstanding games have fallen back to their old selves as they lost to the Denver Broncos 34-12. With a new owner, the future of the coaching staff and general manager is in question in Cleveland, which means everyone, including all the players, will be playing for either a job in Cleveland next year or someplace in the NFL.

Brandon Weeden, the starting quarterback, completed his first season as the starter, but hasn’t established himself enough to know if he will start next season. They most likely will draft a quarterback in the first round.

Trent Richardson is their top running back leading the team with 953 yards with a 3.6 average, with Josh Gordon, 46 catches for 766 yards, and Greg Little, 50 catches for 609 yards being their top receivers.

The Steelers have played down to their opponents all year, but against the Bengals the defense was able to hold rising young Quarterback Andy Dalton in check most of the game despite an outstanding game from another bright young player A. J. Green who had 116 yards on 10 catches after only one reception in the previous meeting between these two rivals. The running game was completely shut down with BenJarvus Green-Ellis being held to only 14 yards on 15 carries. But as it has occurred for most of this season the offense could not put points on the board as they continued to go one, two, three out on most of their possessions.

Ben Roethlisberger criticized the play calling after losing to the San Diego Chargers, but the only person he can blame this game on is himself.

The loss generated many, many questions as to who will be back next season, and what will be done to turn around an extremely talented team that should have been challenging for a Super Bowl, but instead will have to win this weekend to keep from falling below 500. This is a team that has looked terrible against some of the weakest teams in the league.

A huge change was made at the end of last season in an effort to correct the offensive problem and protect Roethlisberger by not renewing Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians’ contract. But it appears that he wasn’t the sole reason for the lack of offense.

So even though the Steelers have one big game left to keep from falling below 500, you better believe they are already looking toward next season.

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