The Cincinnati Bengals learned a few things from their most telling loss in the last 15 years.
They're still in first place in the AFC North, though it may not feel that way. They've got to fix that horrid run defense that keeps dragging them down.
Most of all, they've got to grow up.
A 27-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday showed that the NFL's upstart team is still a long way from joining the elite.
The Bengals (5-2) couldn't stop the run and couldn't keep up with a team that knows how to play its best in the biggest games.
"We'll beat some teams because we've got some talent," Pro Bowl right tackle Willie Anderson said Monday. "But those teams that have men over there that don't think this is a game, it's their job -- it's hard to beat that."
They got beat every which way by a Steelers team determined to have its way. Pittsburgh (4-2) ran for 221 yards and made quarterback Carson Palmer look ordinary for the first time since the last time he faced their defense.
Instead of moving 2 games ahead of Pittsburgh, the Bengals had their lead trimmed to a half-game. Still, the schedule is favorable -- five games left against teams that currently have losing records, starting with Green Bay (1-5) next Sunday.
The Bengals play in Pittsburgh on Dec. 4. The goal is to make sure they win enough between now and then so it's a contest for first place.
"We've got to make sure we don't let that game affect the next one," defensive tackle John Thornton said. "We've got enough good players here to go out and still be successful.
"We still have a good record, we're still in first place, so we've got to act like it. We've got to have that swagger about us and not worry about this past game. We know what our deficiencies are, but we've got to fight to overcome them."