Rapid Reaction: Bengals 20, Steelers 10

CINCINNATI – A few thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers' 20-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium:

What it means: The Steelers played better Monday night than they did in a season-opening loss to the Tennessee Titans, but it will still be a quiet plane ride back to Pittsburgh. The Steelers are 0-2 for the first time under seventh-year coach Mike Tomlin, and the offense hasn’t looked this challenged since 2003, when Pittsburgh went 6-10.

The defense again played well enough, but it will have to dominate games for the Steelers to beat playoff-caliber teams this season. Through two games, the Steelers have not forced any turnovers, and they have notched one quarterback sack.

Stock watch: The offense produced a few spasms of productivity, and it actually looked like a legitimate NFL unit late in the second quarter when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led a five-play, 65-yard touchdown drive.

But even when Roethlisberger completed a pass, he had to fit the ball into a tight window, and the Steelers again got very little from their running game. Felix Jones led the way with 37 yards on 10 carries -- and that was a marked improvement from what Steelers running backs did the previous week. Yikes.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley provided more fodder for frustrated Steelers fans with some of his play calls. A reverse to a 31-year-old possession receiver (Jerricho Cotchery)? Really?

Spike it, will ya? What were the Steelers thinking after tight end David Paulson got stripped at the end of a 34-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter? The Steelers took their time getting to the line of scrimmage when they should have been hurrying to snap the ball, since Paulson had been ruled down before he fumbled.

The dawdling gave Bengals coach Marvin Lewis enough time to watch a replay and throw the challenge flag. The call was reversed, and Cincinnati needed just five plays to cover 87 yards and score the first touchdown of the game after the turnover.

What’s next: The Steelers play another prime-time game when they host the 2-0 Chicago Bears on Sunday night, and it is not too early to call it a must-win situation for Pittsburgh. The team has missed the playoffs all three times it has started a season 0-3 since 1970.

The Bears couldn’t give a hoot about the Steelers’ problems, and their opportunistic defense will be able to take its share of chances against an offense that simply doesn't have enough playmakers.