Thanks in large part to a pair of Andy Dalton interceptions by Brice McCain, the Pittsburgh Steelers enter the second half of the season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals up 20-10, a half hour away from securing a division title, a home game next week, and another contest against the Baltimore Ravens.
Antonio Brown opened the scoring with a 71-yard punt return, and Martavis Bryant added a 21-yard touchdown, his eighth of the season, on a screen pass, while Dalton’s toss to Giovani Bernard resulted in the road team’s lone excursion into the end zone. The Bengals begin the third quarter with the ball.
The Bengals began the half with a good return, and Jeremy Hill was able to gain three yards on first down. After another two yards to set up third and five, Dalton found Mohammed Sanu over the middle near midfield. Sanu in the Wildcat threw deep toward Green, but William Gay was in coverage. The tight end was called for holding anyway.
Now on first and 20, Dalton threw the ball into the ground after feeling pressure early and nothing open. Dalton escaped pressure and found his third tight end for 19 yards, setting up third and one. Ryan Shazier was in coverage. With a fullback, Hill was hit in the backfield, but escaped two Steelers to get outside and came up just shy of the marker. On fourth down, Dalton kept it and got the first down after no whistle was blown and the Bengals pushed him forward.
From the 32 on second and frou, Dalton was low to Green. He was incomplete again, setting up fourth and four. The Bengals’ field goal attempt was wide right as the Steelers will take over, still up 10, at the 40.
On first down, off play action, Ben Roethlisberger took a shot down the field into double coverage to Brown, but there was little chance for a completion. Le’Veon Bell was bottled up at the line of scrimmage. Roethlisberger’s pass bounced in front of Heath Miller as the Steelers went three and out.
Stephon Tuitt came on to clean up a screen pass on first down for six yards. On second down, Hill was stuffed after one yard. Dalton tried to take off up the middle but was just short. Deep in their own territory, the Bengals chose not to risk it looking to get back into the game down 10. The punt only dribbled just past the Steelers’ 40-yard line.
On first down, Roethlisberger dropped back and then stepped through pressure to find Bell for 19 yards, but he was hit low and went down holding his knee. He trotted off the field, limping. Dri Archer got the carry and was dropped for a loss on first down. On second and 11, with four wide, Roethlisberger found Miller for the first down on the cusp of field goal range.
Archer caught his first pass of the game on the next play for four yards. On second and six, five wide, Markus Wheaton was tackled in traffic on a screen for a loss of two. On third and eight, Roethlisberger was intercepted by Reggie Nelson on an ill advised pass. Archer missed a block as the throw was slightly rushed as Nelson cut in front of the route.
The Bengals took over at their 11. Antwon Blake gave Green a pop after eight yards. On second and two, Hill was dragged down by Shazier for a loss. On third and three, Brandon Tate found space over the middle for the first down, to the 25-yard line. Jermaine Gresham made the first down catch two plays later. From the 36, Dalton was flushed out and threw the ball away. He threw a hot pass to Green to midfield. A short pass to Hill for six ended the third quarter. On second and four, Gay missed a tackle on Green for another first down.
Now at the 32, Hill was tripped up after two. Green got in front of McCain for the first down again. Hill continued to churn yardage up the middle for three yards. He found space through the middle down to the five. On first and goal, Hill was stretched out wide and forced out of bounds for no gain. Gresham got in on second down to cut the score to 20-17. He lost and regathered the ball, and was injured on the play.
with Josh Harris in the backfield, he got the ball and raced up the field for a massive gain, but Ramon Foster was flagged for holding. Harris came off the field after running down the field, putting Archer in the backfield again. Now from the 19, Roethlisberger found Archer up the right sideline for about 15 yards. On second and two, with Harris back in, the rookie worked his way for a first down. Harris got the ball gain, but only netted a yard or two on first down. Brown reeld in the reception for another first down for 15 yards.
Across midfield, Harris was chased down from the backside for a loss of three. Off play action, Ben saw nothing open and took what he could get on the ground, gaining about four yards and setting up third and nine. Roethlisberger’s pass was tipped and caught by Pouncey, who basically got back to the line of scrimmage. Brad Wing attempted a pass and was intercepted with under six minutes to play.
Taking over at the 41, Sean Spence made the tackle on Green after the catch for six yards. On second and four, Hill was stopped just short of the first down. On third and one, in a heavy run look, the Bengals did indeed run, and gained the first. Green caught the ball down the field on the next play, but Blake was able to strip the ball out, and the Steelers recovered. Green stayed down after taking a shot from Mike Mitchell.
From the 30, Roethlisberger went deep to Bryant on first down, but too far. The Bengals were flagged for illegal contact, however, giving the Steelers a first down anyway. Now from the 35, Harris worked his way into the line for about two yards. Roethlisberger’s pass was deflected well into the backfield, setting up a third and eight with over three minutes to play and two Bengals timeouts intact. On third and long, Brown faked coming back underneath, but separated for the cornerback, eluding the last defender for the 63-yard touchdown, putting the Steelers up 27-17 with time ticking away. It was Brown’s 13th receiving touchdown of the season, breaking the franchise record.
Dalton’s pass from the 37 was tipped. His second pass was dropped. Jason Worilds smelled blood and hunted down Dalton on third down across the field for his seventh sack of the year. On fourth and 19, Bernard came up well short of the first with 1:09 left. Mike Tomlin took off his jacket in anticipation of a Gatorade bath.