Pittsburgh Steelers Make Unwanted NFL History With MNF Loss Against Bengals

The December slump that threatens to derail the Pittsburgh Steelers' season continued on Monday night, when the AFC North leaders suffered a shock 27-17 defeat against the Cincinnati Bengals.

After going 11-0 for the first time in franchise history, the Steelers were being touted as a potential 16-0 team as the calendar turned to December but have since dropped to 11-3 after losing three games in a row and have seen their lead over the Cleveland Browns in the AFC North cut to just one game.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Steelers are only the third team in NFL history to lose three consecutive games after starting 11-0 after the Los Angeles Rams in 1969 and the New Orleans Saints 40 years later.

The Rams finished 11-3 and narrowly lost the Conference playoffs on the road against the Minnesota Vikings, while the Saints recovered to finish 13-3 before sweeping aside everything in their path en route to winning Super Bowl XLIV.

Looking as far ahead as the Super Bowl seems premature for the current version of the Steelers, who became the first team in NFL history with at least 11 regular season wins to lose multiple games against teams who had four or fewer wins—the Bengals were 2-10-1 up until Monday and the Washington Football Team was 4-7 when it won in Pittsburgh in Week 13.

The Steelers were 14.5-point favorites going into Monday Night Football and were riding a 10-game winning streak over the Bengals, who had last won a game on November 1.

None of that mattered as Cincinnati took a 17-0 lead at halftime after a first half during which the Steelers racked up a series of dismal milestones. Pittsburgh had just two first downs and three turnovers in the first 30 minutes, respectively the fewest and the most it has ever had with Ben Roethlisberger as its starter.

The Steelers also set new lows in passing yards and yards per play with seven and 1.4 respectively and failed to get a first down in the first quarter for only the first time since Week 8 of the 2018 season.

Over 29 plays in the first half, the Steelers were held to a sobering 40 total yards, with Roethlisberger passing for a career-low 19 yards.

"That was not good enough for us," Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters after the game.

"The performance speaks for itself. We turned the ball over at the early portions of the game. You can't do that. You can't do that vs. anybody. We gave them a short field three times in the first half or so, and so it was an uphill battle the rest of the way because of that."

The Steelers have already clinched a playoff spot and remain top of the AFC North, but are now just one game ahead of the 10-4 Browns, whom they visit in Week 17.

Worryingly for Pittsburgh, the loss to the Bengals has seen it slip into the third seed in the AFC, trailing the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills, who are also 11-3 but hold the head-to-head tiebreaker after beating the Steelers last week.

Pittsburgh has the second-hardest remaining schedule in the NFL with a home game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, ahead of the trip to Cleveland in Week 17.

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin
Mike Tomlin, head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, walks off the field at Paul Brown Stadium on December 21 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Steelers lost 27-17 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Jamie Sabau/Getty