The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the second half with a 7-6 lead, a surprisingly low-scoring game, but the Steelers have already suffered a significant loss, with Le’Veon Bell suffering a right knee injury. The hope is that he is not lost for the season.
Ben Roethlisberger looked sharp in his return early, hitting Antonio Brown for a one-yard touchdown, but the offense went cold for most of the rest of the second half. the Cincinnati Bengals netted a pair of field goals on their first two drives.
The defense has performed fairly since then, with Bud Dupree and then a combination of Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier netting third-and-long sacks, the latter caused by pressure from Lawrence Timmons. Timmons should have ended another drive with a pass breakup, but a Mike Mitchell taunting penalty prolonged the drive, ultimately ending with a botched snap that knocked the Bengals out of field goal range.
Cincinnati begins the first half with the ball after deferring in the first half. Chris Boswell set back for his second kickoff, this one short and returned out to the 31 after escaping one tackler.
On first down, Jeremy Hill found a hole up the right side for a seven-yard gain, Mitchell coming up to make the tackle. On second and three, a quick pass to A.J. Green moved the sticks. From the 42, set four wide, pressure by Timmons forced an errant pass. Giovani Bernard was pulled in from lined out wide to pick up Timmons and he still got through. On second down, Shazier chased Hill down from behind after four yards. On third and long, the Steelers got pressure and forced Dalton to scramble, and then launch a shovel pass that fell incomplete. Brown fielded the punt at the 17-yard line.
In the meantime, Bell was downgraded to out for the game as he was taken out of the stadium for further evaluation on his injured knee.
Williams got the Steelers’ first offensive touch of the half, going for two yards on the ground up the right side. On second and eight, Williams was held to three yards on a sweep to set up a third and five. Roethlisberger took a shot down the field to Brown, who was open, but the ball was underthrown and picked off by Reggie Nelson. Brown made a crucial error in making no effort to loop around to Nelson to tackle him, allowing him to make a long return to the 33-yard line.
Dalton ran a bootleg to the right, but he was promptly met by Steve McLendon for the big man’s first sack of the season. On second and 19, McLendon got penetration again, getting to Dalton and making him throw a poor pass, but Andre Smith was flagged for a peel-back block for a 15-yard penalty. Now second and 34, James Harrison batted down Dalton’s pass just a few yards away. A short pass on third down forced the Bengals to punt, which was downed at the eight.
Starting deep in their own end once again, set up by Roethlisberger’s interception that flipped the field position, the Steelers set out wide on first down. Brown dropped the ball on a pass over the middle. Roethlisberger found Heath Miller making a tough 14-yard grab in traffic, getting a bonus 15 yards because of a hit to the helmet in the process of fielding the catch.
Off play action again, Roethlisberger went back to Brown for 17 yards across midfield. From the 46, Williams was stuffed for a short loss after two straight play-action passes. On second and 11, off a pump fake, Roethlsiberger found Miller vertically, snagging the ball out of the air to the 22.
Finding Miller again underneath for five yards, Roethlisberger threw the ball away on second down after finding nothing open. On third and five, a nine-yard scramble from Roethlisberger was negated by a hold from Ramon Foster. Williams took a dump off about 12 yards to make the field goal much easier. Boswell’s first field goal attempt of the game from 32 yards out was good, making it 10-6.
Boswell’s third kickoff was fielded at the goal line and returned to the 27-yard line. On first down, Hill lowered his shoulders to pound up the middle for four yards. McLendon pulled Hill down from behind after another four-yard gain. On third and two, Dalton finally hit the deep ball, beating Blake overhead inside the 30-yard line for an over the shoulder catch as he went out of bounds.
From the 27, Hill continued to pound out those hard four-yard runs. This time he picked up five after a missed tackle in the backfield. On third and one, Hill was stuffed at the line, but bounced around the right end, not able to outrun the boundary corner and shy of the first. Mike Nugent‘s third field goal attempt from 42 yards out, after a false start, was blocked by Cameron Heyward. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, however, set the Steelers half the distance to the goal.
From the 11, Williams cut back for a six-yard gain. On second and four, a first down was negated by a hold by Matt Spaeth, setting the Steelers half the distance to the goal again. Now on second and 13, Williams cut left again and this time found open space for 53 yards, the Steelers’ longest rushing play of the year. From the 36, Roethlisberger threw a bit too hard for Miller, falling to the ground, but still able to gain three yards. On second down, Roethlisberger pumped two or three times before pulling it down to Miller. He was marked down short of the first, but Mike Tomlin challenged the ruling, and the call on the field was reversed.
From the 25, Williams was bottled up near the line of scrimmage, but a flag for holding on Miller backed them up 10 yards. On first and 20, a dump off to Williams picked up two yards. From the 33, a deep shot to Bryant fell incomplete, with a flag being picked up for pass interference. On third and 18, Roethlisberger looked to scramble to get into field goal range, but was tripped up. The Steelers were forced to punt after getting to the 25-yard line.
Berry’s punt went just 18 yards, fielded at the 17-yard line, not the result the Steelers were hoping for after electing to pass up a 52-yard field goal attempt. On first down, Dalton hit on a 23-yard pass over the middle to the 39. Tyler Eifert was brought down after a six-yard gain, tackled by Robert Golden. On second and four, a short pass to Green netted a first down after stretching out while going out of bounds.
From the 49, after being forced to burn a timeout, Dalton threw to the sideline to Green down the field, but out of bounds with Mitchell coming over. On second down, Marvin Jones was brought down by Shazier after six yards. On third and four, Eifert and Ross Cockrell simultaneously caught the pass at the first-down marker.
From the 40, Dalton found Eifert down the seam for 23 yards. Bernard ripped one up the middle for 12 yards to set up first and goal at the five.
Dalton’s fade to Green over Cockrell on first and goal was too deep after the receiver was jammed at the line. On second down, Dalton threw the ball away. On third down, however, Antwon Blake became the hero, intercepting the ball in the end zone, skying in front of Jones and returning the ball up the sideline for a nice return for 42-yard return to the 40-yard line.
Williams took the ball up the middle for a couple yards. Brown picked up three yards on a screen that was not blocked well. On third and six, Roethlisberger was under pressure and threw incomplete to Miller in the dirt as the offense when three-and-out following the huge defensive play.
Berry’s punt was not a long one again, downed outside of the 20-yard line. Taking over at the 24, another poor fielding of the snap sent Dalton sprawling to recover the ball 15 yards down the field. On second and 25, Dalton’s pass was incomplete and off the hands of the receiver, leaving the ball in the air for a chance to pick off. Dalton went deep to Green on third down in double coverage as Cockrell and Mitchell converged, with Mitchell intercepting the ball. An illegal block in the back penalty on Robert Golden, however, backed the Steelers up, leaving open the question of whether a punt would have been better.
From the 24, Williams picked up four yards on first down. Roethlisberger scrambled to his right, buying as much time as possible, throwing to Will Johnson, but his pass was picked off at the sideline to give the Bengals life at the Steelers’ 45.
Shazier knifed up the middle for a tackle for loss on first down as the defense tries to keep the pressure up on the struggling Bengals. On second and 11, Hill was pulled for five yards to the 41 to set up third and six. Dalton was able to dump the ball off to Bernard for a huge first down, gaining 23 yards to the 17. Mitchell was injured on the play.
On first down in the red zone, after offsetting penalties, Dalton threw to Green in the end zone incomplete. From the 17 on second down, Dalton dumped it off to Hill, who eluded one defender for eight yards. On third and two, Dalton was able to find Green to finally get into the end zone as the Bengals take the lead for the first time today. The Steelers trail 13-10 with about three minutes to play and three timeouts.
Taking over at the 20, Roethlsiberger threw a high pass on first down that was intercepted by Reggie Nelson again, who intercepted him in the first half, taking over at the 26. After a short run, Tomlin chose to let the clock run down to the two-minute warning rather than use a timeout, expending lots of time as a result. Not the best clock management there.
From the 25, Hill was stopped after two yards as Tomlin finally realizes he has timeouts. Hill was stopped for a loss again by Shamarko Thomas coming off the edge. Nugent’s third field goal made it 16-10. The Steelers have 1:47 and a timeout to overcome a six-point deficit.
Archer elected not to return the ball after fielding it two yards deep. Roethlisberger takes over at the 20. He was sacked right up the middle on first down for a loss of eight. Martavis Bryant picked up 16 in-bounds. Roethlisberger was incomplete on third down, but Miller was tackled to draw a pass interference for an automatic first down.
From the 25, with 1:02 left, after an illegal motion, Roethlisberger hit Miller for 13 over the middle. Williams got to midfield as the Steelers used their last timeout. A deep ball into coverage fell incomplete. Miller as good for a first down, and Roethlisberger threw the ball for two yards rather than spiking it. With 12 seconds from the 37, Roethlisberger dunked it to Bryant for 21 yards, out of bounds with four seconds left and once chance to win the game. Roethlisberger’s pass dragged Brown out of bounds in the back of the end one to drop the Steelers to 4-4 and likely out of the division race, as the Bengals are now 7-0.