Le'Veon Bell's injury turned the game for the Steelers

Dale Lolley's post-game notebook explains why the Steelers lost altitude when they lost Le'Veon Bell.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping for the best with star running back Le'Veon Bell. They’re preparing for the worst.

Bell suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury in the second quarter of the Steelers’ 16-10 loss Sunday at Heinz Field against the Cincinnati Bengals. His loss certainly changed the complexion of this game, if not the season.

With Bell gone, the Bengals had no fear of the Steelers' running game. DeAngelo Williams replaced Bell and gained 71 yards, but 55 came on one carry.

On his other eight attempts, he gained 16 yards and the Bengals were stopping the run without much help from their safeties.

“The safeties were staying on the outside,” said Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant. “They weren’t playing the run after Le’Veon got hurt.

“They doubled the outside. The safeties came over to help out. They had a great game plan. Hats off to those guys. We just have to get better and learn from it.”

With the middle of the field open, Heath Miller had a field day, catching 10 passes for 105 yards, but the Steelers missed Bell in that portion of the game, as well. The middle of the field is where Bell does a lot of his damage in the passing game.That’s where the Steelers will need Markus Wheaton to be a factor, as well, if Bell is out for the season or an extended period.

@ If you would have told me the Steelers defense would sack Andy Dalton three times, intercept him twice and also block a field goal, I’d have thought the Steelers would win this game going away.

And the interceptions and blocked field goal came in the game’s final 18 minutes.

Yet the Steelers outbungled the Bengals.

“When you have your foot on their throat, you have to finish the game,” said defensive end Cameron Heyward, who blocked the field goal attempt.

“This could be a big learning lesson or it could be our Achilles’ heel the rest of the season. We’ve got to grow from this. Look at the Baltimore game. If we get another stop in the fourth quarter, we win the game. I don’t think it’s a trend, but we’ve got to learn from this. It can’t be something that lingers around.”

We’ll see now just how professional the Steelers are. This one is going to hurt for a while.It was a big game, one the Steelers needed to have if they hoped to win the AFC North this season.

Now, that is effectively out the window.

On the plus side, the defense played outstanding against an offense that came in averaging 30 points per game with weapons all over the field. But Heyward wasn’t satisfied.

“We needed the exclamation point. We needed that one big stop,” Heyward said. “We knew we couldn’t give up a touchdown, but we did. You commend them on that. They were able to execute better than us.”

Shouldn’t, however, a blocked field goal or two fourth quarter interceptions have been that exclamation point?

“We had some,” Heyward said. “But we didn’t have that stamp of approval. In these games you need that. You need that one stop that defines the game. And we didn’t have it.”

@ I’ve been a pretty consistent supporter of Dri Archer, who’s been better this season than he was in 2014.

But we saw some of his 2014 form Sunday. He twice brought kicks out of the end zone and failed to get it to the 20.

That’s why on Cincinnati’s final kickoff, even though he was just a yard or two deep, Archer took a knee instead of trying one last time to break one.

Certainly kick returning is a team effort. And guys were coming in free on him. But he also didn’t make anyone miss. And if he doesn’t have the confidence to bring the ball out down 6 points with the game on the line, he probably shouldn’t be back there any longer.

@ There were some reports coming out following the game that Bell’s ACL seems to be intact and that his injury is an MCL.

That would be good news. But tests still need to be completed.

However, this could be a harbinger of good things: Bell took to Twitter Sunday night, tweeting, “I appreciate the concern and support from everybody who’s sent me txts, tweets, phone calls, etc…I’ll be okayy, love youu all! #Juice."

All of that either meansBell got some good news – otherwise, would you really be on Twitter – or he’s got some good medication – two Y’s in okay and two U’s in you?

@ Coming into this game, people were concerned with Cincinnati tight end Tyler Eifert and the Steelers’ ability to cover him. There also was talk of Lawrence Timmons not playing as well as he had last season.

But Timmons was part of a concerted effort to shut down Eifert – he had four catches for 39 yards – and he also was active overall. I thought he played a pretty good game.

(Make sure to read Jim Wexell's game notes on the South Side message board.)

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