CINCINNATI (AP) -The play epitomized the Cincinnati Bengals' season.
On a fourth-and-17 in the closing minutes Sunday night, receiver Chad Johnson ran downfield, cut toward the sideline and caught Carson Palmer's pass. He immediately went out of bounds with a defensive back closing in - 4 yards shy of the first down.
With that, the game and the season were all but over.
A 24-10 loss in rainy Pittsburgh ended the Bengals' threadbare hopes of making the playoffs. At 4-8, they're doomed to another season without a winning record. And they're fast losing the support of fans who wonder why they keep making costly blunders that decide games.
Something's just not right with this team.
``I think sometimes some of our problem is we don't always have a team attitude,'' defensive end Justin Smith said Monday. ``I think the best teams really don't care about any of that (statistical rankings). They care about winning. And we're not there yet.''
Not even close.
The Bengals haven't developed the resolve or discipline to get beyond a mistake or take advantage of one. They got four turnovers Sunday night and gave the ball up only once, but let all those extra chances go to waste.
They drove for a touchdown on their game-opening possession. They managed only three points the rest of the way even though they got the ball inside Pittsburgh's 30-yard line three times. The defense also let Hines Ward have 11 catches and a pair of touchdowns.
``He got to the yard markers, knew where he had to be, and would catch the ball and pretty much fall down in the conditions we had,'' Smith said.
Unlike the Bengals.
Johnson's too-short reception on Cincinnati's final offensive play was the last in a series of mistakes that helped Pittsburgh overcome those four turnovers:
- After getting the ball at Pittsburgh's 28 following a short punt, a false start penalty put the Bengals in a hole and forced them to settle for Shayne Graham's 43-yard field-goal attempt. He missed it.
- Glenn Holt fumbled a kickoff return, setting up a field goal that put Pittsburgh ahead to stay 10-7.
- A holding penalty on cornerback Leon Hall nullified a safety.
- An offsides penalty on Pittsburgh's fourth-and-3 punt allowed the Steelers to keep possession, run three more plays and drain 1:41 off the clock in the closing minutes.
- Finally, Johnson came up short on the last play, allowing Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to finish it off by twice taking a knee.
The most costly problems came on offense. The Bengals had six possessions start at their own 39-yard line or better - three of them began inside Pittsburgh's 30 - but managed only three points.
``We didn't take advantage of the field position at all,'' coach Marvin Lewis said Monday. ``We didn't score touchdowns, we missed on throws, we missed on catches. We have to do a better job. That was the disappointing thing. You need to come out of there with points.''
Palmer struggled in the wet, muddy conditions, frequently overthrowing receivers. He was only 17-for-44 for 183 yards with a sack. Running back Rudi Johnson also struggled as well, picking up only 34 yards on 14 carries.
The many mistakes had sports talk shows buzzing Monday with questions about the coaching staff and whether it needs to be changed. The Bengals have had only one winning record in Lewis' five seasons, going 8-8 in three other years. They've got a long way to go just to get to the break-even mark again.
Lewis acknowledged that some of the blame rests with the people leading the practices and making up the game plans.
``As a staff, we have to coach better,'' Lewis said. ``We weren't as consistent in areas as we need to be.''

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