THE GAMES -- Otis Birdsong, the former All-Star sharp- shooter for the NBA's Kansas City Kings and New Jersey Nets, once quipped that the three certainties of life were: "Death, taxes and my jump shot."
If you put an NFL spin on Otis' boast, you might replace his feathery jumper with the fact the Pittsburgh Steelers are always going to be Super Bowl contenders.
Or at least you could have until this season.
Age and injuries have finally caught up to the 2013 Steelers and Mike Tomlin's current bunch is probably earmarked for a year-long, celler-dweller dogfight with the Cleveland Browns, not it's accustomed spot as one of the true heavyweights in the AFC.
Since Chuck Noll's first winning season in 1972, the Steelers have had only seven losing campaigns over a 40-year span with the low-water mark being 5-11 in 1988. Over that same time frame, Pittsburgh has won 20 division titles, eight AFC crowns and is football's only six-time Super Bowl champion.
This is not an organization used to failure or looking up at the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North standings. In fact, the Steelers have treated the Queen City like a second home over the years, winning 11 of their last 12 at Paul Brown Stadium before Monday night's 20-10 setback to Marvin Lewis' crew.
Perhaps no team has had a more difficult start to the 2013 season than the Steelers, though.
Accustomed to kicking off a new year in style, especially at home at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh lost far more than a game in Week 1 when Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, defensive leader Larry Foote and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling all went down with season-ending injuries during an ugly 16-9 setback against Tennessee.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Tomlin said at the time. "Nobody cares about our problems. They're glad we've got them. We need to understand that. We need to stick together and persevere."
Persevering wasn't going to be easy in Cincinnati, where an old friend, James Harrison, and a strong Bengals front seven laid in wait after a bitter Week 1 hiccup at Chicago.
Despite bringing in football's most impressive curriculum vitae, and it's longstanding dominance over the Bengals, you never got the feeling Pittsburgh even had a chance on Monday, no doubt a bitter pill to swallow for some haughty western Pennsylvania fans used to nothing but good times.
For once, Cincinnati had the more talented club and perhaps more importantly, the healthier one.
Bengals rookie running back Giovani Bernard gave his offense a little juice out of the backfield and scored two touchdowns as Cincinnati shut down Pittsburgh.
Bernard ran for an early score and then caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton in the third quarter which gave the Bengals a lead they never relinquished.
"He did the things that we expect him to continue to do. He had the great catch-and-run. He had a big run earlier. And then (BenJarvus Green-Ellis) comes back and finishes it off. So it was a good job today by the two of them," Lewis said.
The real difference, though, was the Bengals defense, which forced two turnovers and limited Pittsburgh to a mere 278 yards and 14 first downs.
Ben Roethlisberger, hurried throughout the game, threw for 251 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Steelers, who have dropped their first two games of the season for the first time since 2002.
It's also the first time Pittsburgh has been two games under .500 under Tomlin, who took over in the Steel City back in 2007.