PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger looked reporters in the eyes as if they were conduits to the general public.
"I'm obviously disappointed in the way that I played," said Roethlisberger. "I let this team down and I let the fans down. This one is on me and I'm taking the blame and letting everyone know that I have to play better."
Roethlisberger, of course, missed four weeks with a sprained MCL and bone bruise. He returned for the biggest game of the season in a knee brace, but when asked whether rust had anything to do with the loss, his three interceptions and 57.8 passer rating, he shot it down with logic.
"No," he said. "We went down the field with that drive in the beginning. It was just bad football on my par and I apologize."
Roethlisberger looked like his old self in leading the Steelers to a touchdown on the opening drive. He completed five of six passes for 40 yards and a 1-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown. But the offense couldn't cross the goal line again.
Perhaps poor protection had something to do with it. Roethlisberger was sacked only three times, but twice on third down and once to start the final possession.
Penalties no doubt had plenty to do with it. The Steelers offense was penalized six times for 49 yards that also nullified 41 yards in gains and three first downs, including one at the Cincinnati 8.
Interceptions obviously had something to do with the touchdown drought. All three of Roethlisberger's interceptions occurred in the second half. The first was on a third-and-5 pass that he threw too deep for Brown and was intercepted by Reggie Nelson.
The second interception occurred on a pass to Will Johnson in which Roethlisberger had plenty of time. He said later that he should've run the six yards and the first down, but the Bengals snared the ball and turned it into the go-ahead touchdown.
The third interception came on Roethlisberger's next pass. It set up the Bengals for the field goal that gave them the 16-10 lead.
While throwing on the run has always been his specialty, Roethlisberger said the limited mobility had nothing to do with some of his questionable decision-making.
"No, I felt like I made some things happen," he said. "I didn't think about it out there. I didn't feel it out there. There was never a time or a play where I said 'Don't try to do this because of the knee or brace.' I will never make excuses. I just played poorly."
The loss dropped the Steelers to 4-4, four games behind the Bengals, but still in the wild-card hunt.
That's if the injuries ever stop.
The Steelers again lost Le'Veon Bell for an undetermined amount of time with a knee injury. It allowed the Bengals to keep their safeties back, took the deep ball out of the equation and made it all the more difficult for Roethlisberger to put the offense on his back.
"The season is halfway over," he said. "We're going to let this burn at us and then turn the page. We've got a whole half of football left."