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Enquirer beat writers Paul Dehner Jr. and Fletcher Page wrap up the Bengals 28-21 loss to the Steelers.
Sam Greene, sgreene@enquirer.com

CINCINNATI, Oct. 14, 2060 – When Ben Roethlisberger III lined up behind center here Sunday with 15 seconds to play and the game on the line, he knew what had to be done. “My family has been in this situation lots of times,’’ he shrugged afterwards.

Ben III recalled his grandfather Ben talking about how his Steelers teams always won in Cincinnati. As a teenager, Ben III watched his father, Ben Jr., do the same thing to the Bengals.

“It wasn’t that hard,’’ Ben III admitted afterward. “I just saw the Bengals were in Cover-Zero defense and I called a slant pass to Antonio Brown III.’’ And just like that, the third generation of Bens-to-Browns stole another football game from the Cincinnati Bengals. The more things change, the more they don’t.

Don’t you feel this? Don’t you anticipate it? Fatalism has nothing on Bengals fans, when it comes to Steelers games. Especially right here in River City. That’s a capital C, which rhymes with T which stands for tortured within an inch of your football-lovin’ lives.

More: Bengals’ Dre Kirkpatrick on Steelers after loss: ‘We’re better than them’

More: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers give Cincinnati Bengals another case of heartbreak

Sunday produced another how-long-Lord moment in a lifetime of them. If you don’t think the Steelers own the Bengals collective psyche – and that the ownership isn’t tangible and profitable for Pittsburgh – you’ve been asleep since Kimo von KneeWrecker. (Lookitup, kids.)

Consider this: Part of the reason the Bengals lost was, they were too good on offense. I swear it on Otto Graham’s grave. Too efficient, too well-oiled. Down 20-14 with 3:32 to play, Team Dalton went 75 yards in nine plays for a TD, but used just two minutes, 14 seconds in the effort. That left the Bens with 72 seconds and three timeouts.

Do we rag the Bengals for that? Stop being so good!

It wasn’t as if the Bengals were angling for a close-in, game-winning field goal. Bill Lazor had to pick the plays he thought gave them the best chance at a touchdown.

That left Roethlisberger with a minute-12 to find field-goal range. Giving the Bens that sort of time in a one-score game is like giving your 15-year-old the key to the liquor cabinet.

“I’m not surprised when 7 (Roethlisberger) and company deliver,’’ said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

Neither are we.

The Steelers started at their 23. Fifty-seven seconds later, they were at the Bengals 31. That would have amounted to a 49-yard field goal try from sore-legged kicker Chris Boswell, who’d made just three of six previous attempts this year, and whose short kickoffs Sunday nearly did in his team.

Ben Sr. to Brown Sr. made that irrelevant. The facts on the decisive play are these:

The Bengals played what is called “Cover-Zero’’ defense. That means strictly man-to-man, no safety help, and a heavy blitz. That said to Roethlisberger, “We’re coming at you, big boy. Take your best shot.’’

Roethlisberger did. But you knew that already.

He saw the coverage and called the play he wanted. It was a good call. You’d expect as much from a guy who has been in the league 15 years. What happened was a quick slant route by Antonio Brown, an equally quick pass from Roethlisberger and a quicker-than-that, unbothered, 31-yard dash to the end zone by Brown. He’s gonna win that one, every time.

“I knew it was over after we scored,’’ Tyler Boyd said. He hasn’t been here very long. “Nothing’s too big for’’ Roethlisberger, said A.J. Green, who has.

So what do we do? Patronize the Bengals by noting they didn’t lose their minds on the field? Suggest that the offense, again, produced efficient, calm excellence at winnin’ time? “We scored when we needed to,’’ Boyd said, and he was right about that.

Do we point out that by the 2nd half, the defense had more combatants in the locker room than on the field? By the 3rd quarter, I was waiting for David Fulcher to take over at safety. That would have been a great move, except David Fulcher is 54 years old.

Do we maintain, as Vinny Rey did, that this team still is different from its predecessors? “I like to think we just ran out of time,’’ Rey said.

I think this is what I think:

The thought remains that the Bengals can’t beat the Steelers, and if they can’t beat the Steelers, what’s the point?

The Bengals play at Kansas City next Sunday, versus arguably the best team in the NFL. There’s a decent chance they lose, which would drop them to 4-3, which would erase their fast start.

“We don’t get a chance to whine about it,’’ Marvin Lewis said.

The next Pittsburgh Week! kicks off just before Christmas, before the Dec. 30 rematch up there. Ho-ho-ho.

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