CINCINNATI (AP) — Even in the lost decades, no Bengals team has been as bad as this one.
A 16-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday dropped Cincinnati to 0-11, a mark unmatched in franchise history. No Bengals team had started worse than 0-10 or lost more than 10 games in a row.
Coach Zac Taylor’s first team has become the measuring stick for futility moving forward.
“It’s just defeating to lose, period,” Taylor said. “I don’t really care about the stats or the records. When you’re competitive and you’ve put everything you’ve got into it, to lose is the worst feeling there is.”
It’s the only one they’ve known all season.
The Bengals are now in solid position for the first pick in the draft, holding a two-game lead over the next-worst teams. The question is how long they stick with struggling rookie quarterback Ryan Finley and let the losses pile up.
Finley had another subpar game Sunday. He fumbled twice on sacks, the last one allowing the Steelers to close out the game. In his third career start, he had two of his best moments, completing a 47-yard pass to Tyler Boyd and a 15-yarder for a touchdown to Boyd. In the first two games, his longest completion was 24 yards.
But there wasn’t much after those two throws. Finley finished 12 of 26 for 192 yards with four sacks and a passer rating of 84.1. In his three starts, Finley has thrown two interceptions, including a pick-6, and lost three fumbles. He has completed only 47% of his passes for 474 yards.
The Bengals started looking toward next year when they benched Andy Dalton after an 0-8 start to see how Finley might fit in their long-term plans. Their best chance to avoid an 0-16 season is to go back to Dalton, although Taylor said after the game he’s not inclined to make a switch at this point.
“Right now, Ryan’s our quarterback,” Taylor said. “It’s not something I even think about.”
The record-setting loss came against a team Cincinnati has seldom beaten in the last decade.
Pittsburgh (6-5) has won 10 straight in the Ohio River rivalry, including an 18-16 victory in the first round of the 2015 season playoffs at Paul Brown Stadium. Pittsburgh has won 13 of 14 and 18 of 21, including seven in a row in Cincinnati.
If the Bengals were ever going to beat the Steelers, this was their chance. Pittsburgh came in missing three key players in an offense hollowed out by injuries.
Center Maurkice Pouncey served the first of his two-game suspension for his role in a melee in Cleveland, where Myles Garrett ripped off quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet and clubbed him with it. Also, receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was out with a concussion and running back James Conner had a shoulder injury from the Cleveland game.
The Bengals led 7-3 at halftime — only the third time this season they’ve been ahead at the midpoint — but let another one slip away. Third-string quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges took over in the third quarter and threw a 79-yard touchdown pass. The Steelers forced a pair of fumbles and held on.
“That’s the (10th) time in a row the Steelers have beaten us,” said Boyd, who had a touchdown and a fumble. “It hurts even more.”