The Pittsburgh Steelers are in Ohio today begin the home stretch against the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals, who are 10-2 on the season and already have a game in hand over the Steelers. A loss today would end the division race, but it would also be a significant blow to Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes, with the other two 7-5 AFC wildcard contenders having favorable matchups today.
For Pittsburgh, there are only healthy scratches today, with the most notable active being tight end Heath Miller, who was out last week with a rib injury. He is active without restriction. Cornerback William Gay went through the concussion protocol last week and is active, as is Sean Spence, who was down last week with a hamstring injury.
The Bengals have one very notable injury in starting cornerback Adam Jones. The veteran helped lock down Antonio Brown in the first matchup, limiting him to under 50 receiving yards. Cornerback Leon Hall and starting safety George Iloka are active, but nursing injuries. Also out injured is sixth lineman Jake Fisher.
Inactives for the Steelers:
WR Jacoby Jones
WR Sammie Coates
T Byron Stingily
QB Mike Vick
RB Jordan Todman
DE L.T. Walton
LB Anthony Chickillo
Inactives for the Bengals:
WR Mario Alford
CB Adam Jones
LB P.J. Dawson
OT Jake Fisher
DT Marcus Hardison
DE Will Clarke
DT Brandon Thompson
The Steelers won the coin toss and chose to receive. Following a touchback, DeAngelo Williams carried for two yards. After a completed pass to Miller for seven, Ben Roethlisberger converted vertically to Markus Wheaton for a 31-yard gain, staying aggressive on third and short.
From the 40 of the Bengals now, Williams escaped a tackler in the backfield for about three yards. Martavis Bryant was tackled for no gain on a screen pass by Leon Hall to set up third and long. Roethlisberger completed to Miller for 10 yards, converting a second third down of the drive and into field goal range.
Williams was brought down for no gain on the following play, but followed it up for about seven yards. After burning a timeout, Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown streaking over the middle for about 19 yards. On first and goal, Williams was stopped just short of the line, but crossed over on second and inches for his seventh rushing touchdown of the year. It was the team’s second opening-drive touchdown of the year.
The Bengals returned the ensuing kickoff out to the 37, but were docked for an illegal block in the back, setting them back to the 10-yard line. The Steelers opened in their base defense, with Gay and Antwon Blake at cornerback.
Andy Dalton completed to A.J. Green on first down for about 17 yards after rolling out to his right. Jeremy Hill was brought down for a loss of two on an unorthodox alignment with the left tackle split out wide. On second and 12, Dalton found Tyler Eifert over the middle for a first down, and Mike Mitchell was flagged for unnecessary roughness. After 12-yard Hill run.
Dalton was incomplete in the end zone, and Hill was tripped up at the line of scrimmage to set up a third and long. Dalton threw a check down screen to Eifert, who escaped for 23 yards to set up a first and goal. From the six, Hill was tackled after a two-yard gain. Dalton’s short pass on second down was picked off by Stephon Tuitt as he tried to find the back.
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Starting from the 10-yard line, Williams had back-to-back carries for four yards to the 18. Roethlisberger burned a second timeout in setting up for the third-and-two play. Roethlisberger threw high to Miller, who snagged the ball for the first down, but he paid for it, elevating and taking a hit and landing hard.
From the 22, Williams picked up about eight yards to the 30. Off play action, Roethlisberger threw over the middle to Brown coming back for the ball for 16 yards approaching midfield. At the 47, it was Brown again for 16 again. Williams picked up five. On second and five, Miller picked up one yard. In the meantime, Dalton was ruled out for the remainder of the game, with AJ McCarron serving as the backup. On third down, Roethlisberger saw the field opening and scrambled for the first down. It was the Steelers’ fifth straight converted third down of the game.
Fitzgerald Toussaint checked in for his first carry of the game, but Brown was penalized for a crackback block, resulting in a loss of 15 yards. On first and 25, back to the 41, Roethlisberger threw the ball away. Tyler Eifert was escorted off the field to undergo the concussion protocol. On a screen, Williams was tripped up after six yards. Bryant picked up 11 on third down to the 24-yard line. Chris Boswell connected from 42 yards for his 21st field goal of the season, giving Pittsburgh a 10-0 lead, their biggest lead over the Bengals this year.
Starting from the 21, McCarron threw complete to Green, and a foolish penalty on Antwon Blake added 15 more. The Steelers must play smarter. Now at the 42, McCarron went deep over the middle incomplete, but Will Allen was flagged for pass interference, a 22-yard penalty. After a first-down run stop and a throwaway at the 36, McCarron’s pass to the back was off line and incomplete. Blake narrowly avoided a late hit. Mike Mugent‘s 54-yard field goal attempt fell short.
Starting from the 44, Roethlsiberger threw a heater in tight coverage to Brown for nine yards. Williams dragged a defender across the first-down marker. A short pass to Wheaton picked up four yards. Williams burst through a hole with the left tackle pulling right, gaining 15 yards. He followed it up with a two-yard gain. Roethlisberger nearly had Bryant for the touchdown in the back of the end zone. On third and eight from the 24, he held on to the ball too long, taking the standing sack for about a six-yard loss back to the 30. Boswell converted from 47 yards to give the Steelers a 13-0 lead, scoring on all three of their drives.
Injury update: Eifert is out. Iloka doubtful to return, Burfict probable.
After a first-down run from Bernard, McCarron, Green beat Blake easily on a go route, with Mitchell unable to bring him down, resulting in a game-changing 66-yard touchdown, making it suddenly 13-7. Mitchell is getting looked at on the sideline after the missed tackle.
Wheaton took the kickoff for a touchback. Williams was stopped after about three yards. After a short loss set up third and long, Roethlisberger converted the third down to Miller for 13 yards. He was incomplete to Bryant. Alejandro Villanueva was injured on the play, resulting in Chris Hubbard entering at left tackle. After a nine-yard pass to Miller, it was the veteran again converting on third and nine.
Roethlisberger went back to Bryant for a six-yard gain across midfield. Brown could not hang on to the second-down pass. On third and four, Roethlisberger’s pass was incomplete, resulting in Jordan Berry‘s first punt of the game. Darrius Heyward-Bey downed the ball after 45 yards at the two-yard line. After a four-yard pass to Green, we have reached the two-minute warning.
A three-yard carry from Hill drew the Steelers’ final timeout, setting up a third-and-three with 1:52 remaining. McCarron was complete for one yard to Mohammed Sanu. Brown fielded the punt at the 42, returning it a few yards with a little over a minute to play.
Roethlisberger threw behind Wheaton over the middle on a crosser on first down. Bryant caught the sideline on a screen pass, tackled out of bounds by the returning Burfict after an 18-yard gain to the 36. Roethlisberger connected with Miller for nine yards. Roethlisberger bluffed a spike but ended up throwing out of bounds, setting up a third and one with 33 seconds remaining. Brown was held shy of the first-down marker on a short reception on the play, officially marked for a loss of one. The booth reviewed the spot, and following the review, Boswell was sent out on the field, converting his third field goal to make it 16-7.
Boswell’s kickoff went out of the back of the end zone with 22 seconds remaining, with the Bengals holding on to two timeouts, but they chose to take a knee to end the half, knowing that they begin the second half with the ball.