There were dropped passes and penalties, including a silly one for having too many men in the huddle.
But what irked Bruce Arians most about an offense that managed only one touchdown last Sunday in Kansas City is that the Steelers averaged 3.9 yards per carry.
"It's got to pick up for us to be where we want to be," the Steelers' offensive coordinator said Thursday. "It's not the number of carries, it's the quality of the carries. When we run it, we have to run it better."
Sledding for the Steelers' running backs may not get any easier Sunday.
The Cincinnati Bengals visit Heinz Field for a 1 p.m. game, and they bring with them the NFL's fifth-ranked rushing defense (92.7 yards allowed per game). They limited the Steelers to 3.5 yards per carry Nov. 13 in Cincinnati.
The AFC North rematch represents the Steelers' first game in December, and that may be as significant as it is symbolic.
The importance of the running game is magnified at this time of year, especially in cold-weather climates, where weather is such an X-factor. That reality may explain the timing of Arians calling out the running game.
"That wind starts blowing, it starts to get cold, that ball starts to get hard, you've got to be able to run the ball, make teams start to quit and give up," said running back Isaac Redman, who is second on the Steelers with 267 rushing yards. "It's something we really haven't done this year is run the ball down teams' throats."
The Steelers are averaging 4.2 yards per carry and rank 18th in rushing offense (109.6) despite throwing the ball 57 percent of the time.
There seems to be a feeling in the Steelers' locker room that the ground game is close to breaking through even though leading rusher Rashard Mendenhall is on pace for less than 1,000 yards.
"It's going to happen," Steelers right guard Ramon Foster said. "We have the nastiness. We have the athletes, too. We definitely take it on our back to get that started and get a lot better at it."
Arians had high praise for several of the Steelers' offensive linemen yesterday, including Foster and rookie right tackle Marcus Gilbert.
The Steelers picked Gilbert in the second round of this year's NFL draft and had been grooming him to play left tackle. They plugged Gilbert in at right tackle after Willie Colon went down with a season-ending arm injury in the season opener.
"He's actually a better run blocker than Flo right now," Arians said of Flozell Adams, who played right tackle last season. "Flo did an unbelievable job with what he had left in his body last year. His mass covered up people more than he moved them. Marcus is getting movement, and he and Ramon (Foster) have become a pretty solid side as far as run blocking."
Arians has been criticized for being too enamored with the pass. And when asked about talk by the running backs that they would like more opportunities, Arians smiled.
"Run it better, we'll run it more," he said. "It's just like the passing game every receiver wants it. It's a nice problem to have."
By Scott Brown
Dec 2, 2011