For 54 minutes on Sunday, The Steelers-Bengals game looked like a normal Steelers-Bengals game. The Steelers making clutch plays on defense, Andy Dalton looked shell shocked after throwing two 4th quarter interceptions and it looked like the Steelers would find a way to get back into the AFC North race. Then the roles got reversed and Ben Roethlisberger threw interceptions on two consecutive throws and The Cincinnati Bengals scored ten points off those turnovers and escaped Heinz Field still unbeaten with a 16-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After Roethlisberger’s first interception by Shawn Williams where he tried to force the ball to Will Johnson, Andy Dalton led the Bengals on a six play, 45 yard drive capped off by a nine yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green with 2:57. On the ensuing possession Ben tried to force the ball to Antonio Brown that was picked off by Reggie Nelson who was on the play that knocked Le’Veon Bell out of the game with a knee injury in the 2nd quarter. The Bengals converted a 44 yard field goal on their possession and hung on for the victory after Ben’s pass to Antonio Brown sailed out of bounds as time ran out. Roethlisberger, in his first game back from his knee injury led the Steelers to a touchdown on their opening drive that went 12 plays for 80 yards capped off by a one yard pass to Antonio Brown.
Dalton went 23 for 38 for 231 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, Green caught 11 passes for 118 yards with the go-ahead score and Jeremy Hill rushed for 60 yards on 15 carries for the Bengals (7-0) who are off to their best start in franchise history. For the Steelers (4-4) Roethlisberger went 28 for 45 for 262 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, Deangelo Williams rushed for 71 yards on nine carries and Heath Miller caught 10 passes for 105 yards. The Steelers lost despite outgaining the Bengals 356-296, won the time of possession 30:09-29:51, and had 21 first downs to Cincinnati’s 16. Both teams had the same amount of penalties (10) and the Bengals actually had more penalty yards (94-91). However, the Steelers had the stupid, undisciplined penalties that cost them field position and of extended drives. For example, in the second quarter after an incomplete pass by Dalton safety Mike Mitchell drew a dead ball unsportsmanlike conduct taunting penalty by getting in the ace of Green. The Steelers also committed critical holding penalties that wiped out first downs.
This game and most likely the division was lost by the Steelers inability to put drives together and score points touchdowns, field goals or otherwise. When I was at my personal press box speaking to some colleagues we were discussing that ten points were not going to hold up, that the Bengals have a drive in them, a clutch play or two in them. I didn’t see the same Bungles that the fans of the Steeler fans at that stadium and the world over have been a custom to seeing for generations. I saw a team that was ready to slay that black and gold demon that has been tormenting them and the fans of Cincinnati alike. After Antonio Blake picked off the first Dalton pass in the end zone and returned it to the 40 yard line that was the opportunity to go in for the kill and seal the win. Instead what did they do, they went conservative with a run up the middle to Williams, a short pass to Brown and tried to force a ball to Miller.
As for Ben, I expected that he would be rusty, I commend him for taking responsibility for the loss and that what makes him a great teammate. Ben tried to do a little bit too much on that first interception because he had a little bit of room to run. He may not have gotten a first down but he could have gotten five yards and scampered out of bounds. As for the second pick he just tried to force it to Antonio Brown and Nelson made a good play on the Ball. Bottom Line is the Steelers had their opportunities and they squandered them on offense and wasted a superb effort on the defense.
As for Bell, his status as this time in still unknown at this point. The Steelers are optimistic that it is not very serious but it did not look good at first glance. In the meantime the focus of the offense shifts back to Roethlisberger and the passing game and Williams who will pick up the slack. Ben will have to shake off the rust in time for a must win game on Sunday at Heinz Field against the Oakland Raiders who are currently 4-3 and suddenly contenders for the same wild card berth the Steelers are out for because all hope for repeating as AFC North champions ceased at 4:15 Sunday afternoon
CIN: vs. CLE Thu. 11/05 8:30 p.m. CBS
PIT: vs. OAK Sun. 11/08 1:00 p.m. CBS