4 Bengals most to blame for ruining Christmas with embarrassing loss to Steelers

Dec 23, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) sacks
Dec 23, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) sacks / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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2. The Bengals defensive front had nothing to pressure a third-string QB

When D.J. Reader went down for the Bengals, everyone knew that the club would have to patchwork the interior of the defensive line in the veteran's absence. Moreover, it also put pressure on the likes of Sam Hubbard, Trey Hendrickson and even rookie first-rounder Myles Murphy to be even more disruptive coming off of the edge or even when they slot inside.

The good news prior to kickoff if you were trying to read the tea leaves was that the Steelers offensive line, though improved from the disaster-class of the 2023 campaign, could be taken advantage of. But the reality of the situation was that the Bengals did no such thing when it came to actually executing between the hashmarks.

Over the 60 minutes of action, the Bengals managed just one sack and only three QB hits on Rudolph throughout the night. Furthermore, the interior of the line and even the linebackers were susceptible against the run as Najee Harris had a nice night, averaging 4.1 yards per carry and finishing the night with 78 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Rudolph, meanwhile, had a big 2023 debut, going 17-of-27 for 290 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

With all of the injuries that the Bengals are currently battling, they needed their defense to be a tone-setter and the unit that really took some of the pressure off of Browning against one of the league's most talented defenses. Instead, the front seven consistently didn't deliver and allowed the Steelers to garner momentum with each play, which is a recipe for getting blown out by three scores.