"Last year the Bengals were sound in not allowing the big run. This year, as has been the case with most things with the defense, that has been one area where they have struggled.
The Bengals have already allowed eight carries of 20 yards or more and are 23rd against the run going into Monday night's game against Pittsburgh.
The task doesn't get any easier this week as the Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall is sixth in the AFC in rushing, averaging 4.1 yards per carry with six touchdowns.
The third-year player is different and possibly more of a complete back compared to past Steelers. He has the speed of a Willie Parker to get outside but also is more physical and can go between the tackles in the mold of Jerome Bettis.
"He's kind of a combination," said defensive tackle Domata Peko, when comparing Mendenhall to the Steelers other Steeler backs. "He has the quick step that Parker has but the physical part that takes two guys to get him down."
One reason why the big gains are disconcerting is that the Bengals allowed just five all of last season. They have also allowed two 100-yard rushers already - in Cleveland's Peyton Hillis and Atlanta's Michael Turner - after only one went over the century mark in the first 12 games last season.
"We have a great period where we give up just one and two-yard gains and then you have a 20-yard gain," cornerback Johnathan Joseph said. "Stats wise we're not doing as bad as it looks but we're not doing as well as we should be."
Ask other players about the struggles against the run and it comes down to missed tackles and not executing. That's a big difference between the Bengals being 2-5 this year compared to 5-2 at this point last year.
"Everything ties together. You could be in the wrong gap and miss a tackle. It's a lot of things," safety Chris Crocker said.
Peko said the one thing the coaches have stressed this week is better tackling and doing better wrapping up ball carriers along with being mentally strong and not preventing breakdowns that have led to big carries.
"We have guys who are clean in the hole who are missing tackles. We have to get better," he said.
With a number of injuries on the defensive line, coach Marvin Lewis wants to see more progress from second-round pick Carlos Dunlap and third-round pick Geno Atkins against Pittsburgh Monday night.
Dunlap saw his most extensive playing time of the season last week against Miami, playing 32 of 68 snaps (according to the Enquirer's analysis of the TV broadcast). Atkins is averaging around 18 snaps a game.
Said Lewis of Dunlap: "Hopefully he'll continue to grow a little bit and get better and give us some quality snaps. He has all the ability we expect. Right now he's had more practice than play. He's got to learn how to prepare and practice in the National Football League to play on Sundays."