Pittsburgh Steelers: Lackluster Offense Plagues Pittsburgh
After the Steelers scored just 17 points in Week 2, their offensive struggles got worse in Week 3.
Sunday's 24-10 loss to the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals dropped the Steelers (1-2) into the division basement, with both defeats coming at home. Ben Roethlisberger threw two interceptions and Pittsburgh scored just three points in the second half. The Steelers are the AFC North's lowest-scoring team, averaging just 16.7 points per game under first-year Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada.
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster did not return after a third quarter rib injury and the Steelers face a tough road game against the Green Bay Packers in Week 4. Roethlisberger said the Steelers would find out something about their character this week.
"We'll see when we come in tomorrow; I'm going to look guys in the eye and make sure no one else is quitting," Roethlisberger said via the Steelers’ website. "I don't believe there will be any. You won't get any quit from me or the coaching staff."
Having made major changes on their offensive line, Pittsburgh has yet to find an offensive identity. Rookie running back Najee Harris is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and he did more damage as a pass-catcher Sunday (14 catches, 102 yards) than as a ballcarrier (14 carries, 40 yards).
The 39-year-old Roethlisberger hasn't been able to carry the offense and the Steelers' pass protection has been porous. Roethlisberger has been sacked eight times after being sacked just 13 times in 2020, and the Bengals dished out punishment Sunday with seven quarterback hits and four sacks.
"Everything hurts," Roethlisberger said after the game.
Even when protected well, Roethlisberger has not been at his best. A play that symbolized his struggles was a horrendous pass in the second half that sailed directly into the waiting arms of Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson.
"I thought he was going in the other direction," Roethlisberger said. "Just an awful play by me."
Playing without All-Pro outside linebacker T.J. Watt (groin), Pittsburgh's defense saw its NFL record streak of 75 straight games with at least one sack come to an end. But the offense is a bigger concern, and Roethlisberger said it's up to him to provide a spark.
"It's got to start with me," Roethlisberger said. "I'm not going to point the fingers at anybody else. I'll point the thumb at myself and try to get it figured it out. I'm a little stumped by it. I'm frustrated, I'm hurt. I hate losing."
Cleveland Browns: Odell Beckham Plays, Myles Garrett Dominates
Week 3 was smooth sailing for the Browns, who saw Odell Beckham return to action for the first time in 11 months, while Myles Garrett dominated in a 26-6 victory over the Chicago Bears.
Beckham (five catches, 77 yards) played for the first time since his torn ACL injury, and it was a positive first step, although he admitted there were times he felt strange.
"A lot of emotions, a lot of things running through you as you're back out in the stadium," Beckham said via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal. "It just felt like I could never get my legs going. But we came out with a W, and that's all that matters."
Cleveland's defense stole the show, led by a dominant performance by Garrett. The All-Pro defensive end set a franchise record with 4.5 sacks and Jadeveon Clowney added two sacks as the Browns dumped rookie quarterback Justin Fields nine times. In his first career start, Fields was 6-of-20 for 68 yards.
The Browns lead the AFC in sacks (12) and Clowney's presence has made it easier for Garrett to dominate. Cleveland (2-1) will travel to Minnesota in Week 4 with plenty of momentum.
"It's awesome seeing everybody getting off and making big plays," Garrett via the Browns’ website. "It just feels like when you're in high school – everybody is balling and you feel like you can make a play at any time."
Cincinnati Bengals: Rookie Ja'Marr Chase Is Making Noise
With four touchdown catches in three games, Ja'Marr Chase (11 catches, 240 yards, four touchdowns) has silenced talk about the passes he dropped during the preseason. Chase became the youngest player in NFL history to score four touchdowns in his first three games.
By controlling the game in Pittsburgh, the Bengals (2-1) kept pace with the Ravens (2-1) and Browns in the AFC North and Chase has been a big reason for Cincinnati's success. The fifth-overall pick said he made a mental adjustment to help eliminate the drops.
"I didn't really have a lot of (preseason) reps," Chase said via Pro Football Talk. "It just made me realize that I need to focus when it's time to focus, lock in when I need to lock in. The ball is only thrown so many times in an NFL game. Got to capitalize when it's time to. I just made that my mindset."
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and Chase already had chemistry after winning a national championship together at LSU. Chase saw plenty of double-teams in college, but playing in a Cincinnati offense with wide receivers Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins has made NFL teams leery about double-teaming Chase so far. Does he expect to see more double-teams moving forward?
"If I keep playing like this I will," Chase said.