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Instead, it was an embarrassment.
Instead of capturing the division, the Pittsburgh Steelers dropped their third straight game, losing 27-17 to the Cincinnati Bengals on the road, breaking the Steelers' 11-game winning streak against the franchise.
"I'm not disappointed, I'm just angry," said Steelers defensive captain Cam Heyward. "We just lost a great game. I think that's how our team feels. We don't feel sorry for ourselves, but we have to get the job done. We have two weeks.
"We just have to play our brand of soccer. Attack the line of scrimmage, offense and defense. We have to play early, not catch up. As a defense, if you get into the red zone, it has to be with three points or nothing. It can't be touchdowns. They go early, and to start 17-0, you're asking a lot from our offense. Our offense has to start fast.
The Steelers (11-3) entered Monday's game as favorites with 14.5 points. With the loss, they faced their biggest loss since 1966.
"Did the Jets blow it by winning? Judging by the biggest overvaluation of week 15.
Including the Rams' loss to the Jets on Sunday, Week 15 was the fourth time in the Super Bowl era that two underdogs with more than 14 points won.
Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers' 38-year-old quarterback, was very serious in the first half, putting in a performance that resulted in the worst offensive performance in the first half of his 17-season career with the Steelers.
In addition to setting new lows in passing yards (7) and yards per game (1.4), the Steelers achieved the fewest turns (2) in the first half and the most turns in the first half (3), starting with Roethlisberger, who had a 17-point deficit at halftime.
"I'm not consistent enough, which affects the offense because the ball is in my hand every game," Roethlisberger said.
The Bengals (3-10-1) took those three turns - two fumbles and an interception - and turned them into two touchdowns and a field goal.
"It wasn't enough for us," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. "The performance speaks for itself. We turned the ball around early in the game. You can't do that. You can't do that against anyone. We gave them a short field three times in the first half, so it was an uphill battle the rest of the way for that.
Instead of relying on short passes, Roethlisberger went out and tried to make the long and intermediate pitches that seemed to be missing from the offense in the last few weeks. But he didn't succeed, pushing the ball around the field, missing and throwing his receivers.
The problem wasn't the handicaps that have been hitting his receivers in the last few games. Roethlisberger's pitches were not on the mark.
Roethlisberger was unable to complete any of his seven pitches over 10 yards in the first half, and six of them were interrupted or intercepted by the Bengals defenders.
"I felt like they were taking some of the drops, so we wanted to do some shots on the field, and the disconnect was out of my hands," Roethlisberger said.
For the first time in 20 seasons, including the postseason, the Steelers went out three times with their first five possessions, including two misses that led to 10 points for the Bengals. For the first time since week 3 of 2017 for the Bears, the Steelers lost by two goals in the first quarter.
For the first time since week eight of 2018, the Steelers failed to get a first down in the first quarter against the Browns. The Steelers had their first Monday with less than 10 minutes in the second quarter.
The Steelers started to come out from three yards in the third quarter when Roethlisberger completed seven 10-yard passes for 89 yards and a touchdown with a 23-yard deep kick to Deonte Johnson, his first Monday finish for 10 yards or more.
Playing without running back James Conner, who was ruled out due to a four-point injury before the game, was again ineffective in the first half. But Benny Snell Jr. came alive in the second half with 13- and 29-yard runs. The 29-yard gain was the longest run by a Steelers runner since Week 2, when Conner gained 59 yards.
But it wasn't enough.
Roethlisberger finished the game by completing 20 of 38 attempts over 170 yards with a touchdown and an interception, enough to give him 60,000 yards of passing in his career.
The Bengals' offense, led by third-row quarterback Ryan Finley, weakened the Steelers' defense and caused major injuries to their inside defenders. Finley used his legs in a crucial drive late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter to score a 23-yard touchdown on the play. Finley finished with 47 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown along with 89 yards of passing and another touchdown.
"We gave up the QB run to really give them a break," Heyward said. "We stormed in the third quarter, but I felt like we let them go as a defense. We're trying to ask our offense to do too much.
Before Monday night's game, the Steelers felt a stretch of three games in 12 days contributed to their first two losses of the season. They thought this week was a chance to recapture their signature physique and finally get a much-needed full week of preparation. Instead, the offense stumbled again, as did the Steelers.
With the loss, the Steelers fell to third place in the AFC playoff race.
"I'm a firm believer that it's not just a belief that things are going to change," Heyward. "Our work has to reflect that. We have to solve it in practice. Whatever it takes. It's not guaranteed. We have to go to work. We have to figure it out and find out what we're falling short of. I know we've had kids get hurt, but that's no excuse. The guys who can go out and play should do the job.