Exasperating Steelers Dominant

Coming out hot (Justin Aller/Getty Images)

Daley Lolley points out the locker-room pride in his notes column.

And this is why this Steelers team is so frustrating.

They've now dominated, that's right, I said dominated, another good team at home, basically blowing out the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals, 30-20, in a game that wasn't as close as the final score would indicate.

I still think the Bengals are a good team, which leads me to this: The Steelers have a good chance of having the best division record in the AFC North at 4-2 - supposing a win over Cleveland in the finale and a Cincinnati win against Baltimore at home in its finale. And yet, there's a good chance that when the playoffs start, the Steelers will be on the outside looking in.

There are so many what-ifs to this season - what if Maurkice Pouncey's injury hadn't caused the line to sleepwalk through a game, what if Antonio Brown hadn't stepped out of bounds against Miami, etc. - but I still believe the Steelers aren't that far away from being a good team.

Go ahead, call me crazy.

As we saw Sunday night, there's still a lot of pride in that locker room. If you had any question about that, you needed to look no farther than Ben Roethlisberger running out of the tunnel about as fired up as I've ever seen him.

His 13-13 start to the game just drove that point home.

"We just wanted to come out and play as hard as we could and show that we are going to give it everything that we have until the end," said Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger has never had a losing season at any level of play, presumably in any sport. He's still got two more games to avoid that. He's not going to give that up without a fight.

@ And that, my friends, is why you don't start putting the young guys on the field willy nilly.

I got into an argument on the Steelers pregame show with Tim Benz about why you just don't start throwing the young guys into the game over veterans.

My most salient point was this: The young players on this team haven't had a lot of success. The rookies are 6-8. The second-year players are 14-16.

Heck, the third-year players have never won a playoff game.

It's up to the veterans such as Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, etc. to show the young players that you play to win and play to win every game until the bitter end.

The bitter end might be coming. But you could see that pride in the locker room following this game that there won't be any quit in that locker room despite the long odds of making the playoffs.

@ That said, some of the young guys are getting in there and doing some good things - out of necessity.

Al Woods, welcome to the future plans. Woods is showing enough that if Brett Keisel does decide to hang up his spikes at season's end, drafting a defensive end early on isn't an extreme need.

And Terence Garvin has shown enough as a coverage linebacker - even without sending Kevin Huber to the dentist - that he should be in the long-term plans as well.

@ Le'Veon Bell admitted after the game to having a little more jump in his step to play against Cincinnati and fellow rookie Giovanni Bernard.

Bell didn't get to play in the first meeting with Cincinnati, when Bernard, who was the first running back selected in the draft, stole the show, scoring a pair of touchdowns in a 20-10 win.

"I keep an eye on him," Bell said.

He also admitted to keeping an eye on Green Bay's Eddie Lacy as well. Steelers fans have been comparing those two all season after Pittsburgh passed on Lacy to make Bell the second running back taken in the draft.

Bell now has 1,034 yards from scrimmage this season in just 11 games. Lacy has 1,264 in 13 games.

Lacy has eight touchdowns. Bell has six. To me, that's a wash. Lacy's got a considerable edge as a runner, at this point, but Bell is much better in the passing game.

It says here that the Steelers are better off with Bell and will be in the long run if this is the offense they want to run - and it is.

@ The Steelers surprised the Bengals by playing some nickel early with Garvin at linebacker instead of bringing Polamalu up and inserting Will Allen in the game.

The Steelers kept Polamalu and Ryan Clark deep, daring the Bengals to keep throwing the ball short.

They did so, not attempting to go down the field until the game's closing moments.

@ LaMarr Woodley is injured again. It's another calf injury. If the Steelers had any questions that they should do whatever they need to do to keep Jason Worilds, that should end them.

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