Prisuta: Deal With OC-QB Disconnect

Ben Roethlisberger (LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

The Steelers could barely move the ball in their 13-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Mike Prisuta says the core problem must be addressed.

They made some plays.

Mike Tomlin went for it after a running-into-the-punter penalty had produced a fourth-and-1 from the 50-yard line and Isaac Redman rewarded his coach's faith with a second- and third-effort fourth-down conversion.

Casey Hampton blew up a second-and-1 handoff to BenJarvus Green-Ellis from the Bengals' 48 and in the process helped necessitate a punt from what had been great Cincinnati field position.

Troy Polamalu and Larry Foote both got enough penetration to make hits in the backfield that resulted in a couple of no-gain runs for the Bengals.

Rashard Mendenhall returned from his baffling banishment and averaged 6.8 yards on his first five carries, including a 20-yard burst through Geno Atkins and Chris Crocker.

There was a double-move from Antonio Brown that scorched cornerback Adam Jones on the way to a 60-yard touchdown.

And there was Cincinnati being held to 7 rushing yards and a 0.7 average per carry on its first 10 rushing attempts.

All of that happened in the first half on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field, and still the Steelers trailed after 30 minutes, 10-7.

More plays were made in the second half, but not enough of them.

And in the end a play the quarterback didn't make led to their undoing.

Again.

Let the Steelers' search for answers begin there.

Ben Roethlisberger had thrown an overtime INT that got the Steelers beat a week ago Sunday in Dallas. That was followed up by an equally hideous pick that put Cincinnati in position to put the Steelers out of their misery, which the Bengals did, 13-10.

Roethlisberger's reaction afterward – "I blew it"— was as predictable as it was accurate. But a week ago Sunday he had accepted responsibility for his play and then lashed out at his circumstances.

It now appears that post-Cowboys reaction was the more telling.

One perceived explanation for it was the obvious frustration of losing in OT. But Ben's Cowboys Stadium Lament, in retrospect, could also be perceived as his frustration with the Todd Haley offense finally boiling over.

There's no evidence to suggest Roethlisberger and Haley dislike each other personally. But they don't have to be at each other's throats to be 180 degrees apart on how and when plays are called and how offensive football should be played. And if they are that far apart there's every reason to believe Roethlisberger's continued dissatisfaction with the way the Steelers have been going about their business had a cumulative effect in spiraling his game downward.

It's either that or Big Ben has suddenly become Tony Romo.

This much we know: Roethlisberger has looked a lot more like Romo used to since returning from that injury sustained on Nov. 12 against Kansas City.

Roethlisberger played some of the best football of his career prior to that injury, perhaps because of the changes Haley was incorporating or perhaps in spite of them, but it was nonetheless getting done. But upon returning Roethlisberger made some of the worst throws of his career and the Steelers lost three consecutive games with their season on the line.

And that just can't continue.

The Steelers need to assess the level of disconnect between the QB and the OC and they need to deal with it. That matters more than who gets shown the door, which players get re-signed or the direction the Steelers head in the draft.

Until that's resolved they're doomed to suffer more offensive failures and endure more frustration from their franchise quarterback.

And there was already too much of that to stomach this December.

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