The Pittsburgh Steelers face a critical division game against the Cincinnati Bengals. They will be doing so without James Harrison, who has become one of the team’s best defenders, but they have also gotten back Jarvis Jones, as well as Steve McLendon at nose tackle. Meanwhile, Stephon Tuitt is expected to make his first career start. Dri Archer was a surprise inactive for the game.
The Steelers got the ball first, and the first play went to Antonio Brown for six yards. On second and four, Le’Veon Bell was able to catch the left side for six yards and a first down.
He worked his way for another five yards on the following play, but was stopped at the line on second down. The screen pass to Martavis Bryant was stopped for no gain, forcing the Steelers to punt.
After a return out past the 40, Andy Dalton connected near midfield for seven yards. Giovani Bernard picked up four yards for the first down. Two more passes to A.J. Green resulted in a third and two, but the pass went through the tight end’s hands with Lawrence Timmons in coverage.
The Bengals attempted a fake field goal, but the runner fumbled the ball short of the first down spot, despite Cincinnati recovering. The ball was returned at the spot of the fumble, and the Steelers gained possession on a turnover on downs.
The offense, however, quickly went three and out after gaining just one yard. Ben Roethlisberger targeted Brown deep on third and nine, but it was incomplete.
The Bengals took over near their own 20, and gained four yards on the ground by Jeremey Hill on first down. Sean Spence had good coverage to stop the crossing reception after four yards. Jones tackled Hill on third down short of the first down.
Bell picked up eight yards on second and eight to the 30-yard line. On the following play, he caught the left edge again for 18 yards, but was stopped for a loss after the first down. Matt Spaeth was hit immediately after just a short gain to set up third and nine. Roethlisberger had the pocket, but could not get the ball to Bell on the play for an incompletion and another punt. Brad Wing‘s punt rolled for just 36 yards, but pinned the Bengals inside their own 20.
Green picked up 12 yards through the air over Ike Taylor on first down to the 27. Arthur Moats sacked Dalton on second and seven to set up a third and 10. Jermaine Gresham was well short of the first down, forcing another punt.
Roethlisberger targeted Spaeth again, this time for 11 yards. The pass for Bryant was broken up. Bell picked up a few yards to end the first quarter, setting up a third and long. Markus Wheaton came around the edge as Roethlisberger booted out to the right. The two connected for the first down and more.
Lance Moore was the recipient of a sharp pass for 29 yards into the red zone. From the 15, Bell picked up seven yards on two carries to set up third and three. Roethlisberger fired quick to Bell, who brought the ball to the one-foot line. He found Heath Miller for the touchdown to put the Steelers up 7-0 early in the second quarter.
The Bengals quickly found the equalizer, however, utilizing a long pass of 50+ yards to Green and then the touchdown pass to Gresham.
Bell caught his second pass of the game for nine yards, but lost three on the ground on second. On third and four, Roethlisberger threw a bit behind Miller, but the tight end should have made the catch. Wing’s punt rolled into the end zone for a touchback.
Hill hit the hole for about 15 yards on first down. Gresham was watched out of bounds for eight. On second and two, Hill got the first down near midfield. William Gay intercepted a deep pass on the following play, but was flagged for illegal use of hands. The Bengals were also flagged for unnecessary roughness, resulted in a replay of down.
On the new first down, Hill was tackled after two yards. Gay got in front another pass on second down. On third and eight, Dalton found Green for the first.
Gay missed an open-field tackle on a screen to allow a six-yard gain. after a false start, Hill took the screen for another first down. Taylor was injured on the play as a result of a helmet to helmet hit.
On first down, Dalton missed the throw, but ran up the middle for a 20-yard touchdown run. Lawrence Timmons was fooled on the fake handoff.
After a return to the 15, Bell picked up nine yards on first down, and Brown took a reception up the right sideline out to the 41. Roethlisberger was sacked on the following play, but a penalty in the secondary negated it.
Roethlisberger escaped pressure to dump the ball off to Bell for nine yards. After a completion to Wheaton, the Steelers reached the 23 with 1:33 remaining in the half. Roethlisgerger narrowly avoided a sack on the next play. Bell kept his feet for five yards into the red zone. Brown caught the ball just shy of the first, shaking a tackle to set up first and goal.
On first and goal from the four, Roethlisberger was incomplete to Moore. he overthrew Moore in the back right corner on second down. On third down, Bryant was forced out of bounds on an incompletion. Shaun Suisham made it a 14-10 game heading into halftime.