The Cincinnati Bengals came into Sunday’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers as 6.5-point favorites.

In other words: The Bengals were supposed to win this game. And, they were supposed to win convincingly.

Instead, the opposite happened. The Bengals lost to their AFC North rival in convincing fashion. Turnovers, bad play calling, and a special teams unit that couldn’t overcome adversity were all heavy factors in the ugly loss.

The heaviest factor of all, however, was the Steelers defense. They consistently overwhelmed and fooled the Bengals throughout the entire game. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin put on a masterclass of how to stop one of the NFL’s most dangerous offenses.

The worst part, however, is Joe Burrow knew exactly what the Steelers were doing and he/the Bengals offense expected that coming into the game.

“They were playing a lot of 2-high coverage, just like we expect to happen all year,” Burrow told reporters after the game.

No one is accusing the Bengals -or the coaching staff- of not doing their due diligence ahead of the game. At the same time, Burrow’s comment reflects the truth. There have been multiple times during the offseason where Burrow and/or the Bengals have borderline-boasted about their offensive capabilities and how they’ll manage their counterpunches when the time comes.

He even said as much exactly a week before kickoff against the Steelers.

“Those guys work really hard to get better at what they do and you have to pick your poison,” said Burrow. “If you play two high, you’re going to have to deal with Joe Mixon in the run game and if you decide to play man, good luck.”

What’s concerning here is the Bengals didn’t have a counterpunch for the Steelers’ 2-high coverages. They didn’t have an answer for the Steelers’ blitz packages or even their four-man rush. This isn’t the same context and it’s something that is more situational, but, the Bengals didn’t have an answer for their long snapper issues, either.

They didn’t have an answer for anything. And they knew what was coming.

Teams are going to be gunning for the Bengals in 2022. All. Year. Long. Cincinnati has to be on its best game week-in/week-out this year, especially when considering the teams featured on their schedule.

And most importantly, they have to figure out how to fight back when they’ve been punched in the mouth.

Fortunately, this is only Week 1 and there is plenty of time left. Those who follow the team will point back to last year’s 20-17 loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 2 as a perfect example that the NFL season is a marathon and not a sprint.

However, the Bengals are a better team than they were at this point last year. And they know how to win big games. To see them fall flat on their face is already bad enough, but to see the results they produced, on top of Burrow saying the Bengals knew what to expect coming in, makes this an especially tough pill to swallow for both the team and its fans.

You can check out Burrow’s presser below:

Featured image via Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports