Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger traded places with Cincinnati counterpart Andy Dalton Monday night.
The Bengals got a competent and aggressive passing game from their quarterback. The Steelers got futility and indecision from theirs. Cincinnati got the victory, and it wasn't a coincidence.
Roethlisberger was 16-for-30 for 187 yards, a touchdown and an interception at the time the Steelers gave the ball back off his pick - netted by Reggie Nelson, the same player who picked Roethlisberger off late in the Week 16 game that ended the Steelers' playoff chances last year.
Pittsburgh has lost 11 of their last 19 games, dating back to a playoff loss at Denver at the end of the 2011 season. It's their first 0-2 start since the 2002 season, and the first of head coach Mike Tomlin's career.
The Steelers were competing at one point, particularly at the end of the first half. It was a rare instance in which they completed more than two passes in a row - for positive yardage.
It was the second game in which the Steelers committed two turnovers while failing to take one away from their opponent. Perhaps equally troubling was the fact the Steelers now have one sack and no takeaways in two games this season. A 15-yard penalty when the game was out of reach by Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley summarized the frustration very eloquently.
That frustration may be coming from the fact the Steelers held Dalton in check for most of the game, only faltering down the stretch when issues with conditioning became fair to question. The defense looked gassed on a 27-yard touchdown catch-and-run from Giovani Bernard, and the Bengals thoroughly dominated the second half.
The Bengals ran an astounding 81 plays to Pittsburgh's 38 - an equal combination of offensive futility and defensive exhaustion. The Steelers converted 3-of-12 third down opportunities in the game.
Pittsburgh returns home for a Sunday night game against Chicago Sept. 22, looking to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2000 - the Steelers finished 9-7 that season.