The Pittsburgh Steelers welcomed the Cincinnati Bengals to Heinz Field for their 2016 home opener. Although many thought it would quickly turn into yet another cage fight, both teams kept their emotions in check, and truthfully, produced quite the opposite of a firework display in a 24-16 Steelers victory.
The opening quarter was relatively quiet, as both teams traded punts until Ben Roethlisberger finally found Sammie Coates trailing down the sideline after moving around in the pocket. This lead to a 20 yard touchdown catch by Xavier Grimble, which wrapped up a 5 play, 66 yard drive that lasted 1:45-. 7-0 Pittsburgh.
The Bengals struck back, as Andy Dalton strung together a few passes, including 2 back-to-back 21 yard passes, to AJ Green and Tyler Kroft. This set up a 25 yard field goal by Mike Nugent, making the game 7-3.
The second quarter didn’t bring much more excitement, as the only highlight came when Ryan Shazier broke through the middle gap to force an errant pass by Dalton on 3rd down. This led to a shanked punt, giving the Steelers field position starting from their own 49 yard line.
Unfortunately, game was incredibly uncharacteristic for both teams; so uncharacteristic, that Antonio Brown dropped what would have been a wide open 3rd down conversion. I know, weird.
The Steelers would get the ball back after yet another stalled Bengals drive, but would only slowly stutter down the field and settle for a 49 yard Chris Boswell field goal, making the game 10-3.
Ben would throw his second interception of the game to Dre Kirkpatrick after tossing a bomb down field to Sammie Coates. Ben and the offense seemed to struggle all half.
The Bengals would finally cut into the lead, as a 24 yard catch-and-run by Giovani Bernard would bring them into the Steelers territory. An easy interception was dropped by Jarvis Jones on 3rd down, which would allow the Bengals an opportunity they would convert on 4th down. An amazing defensive play by rookie cornerback Artie Burns would prevent the Bengals from scoring a touchdown, having to settle for a 33 yard Nugent field goal, ending the half at 10-6.
The second half began where it started, with both offenses struggling. Ben did, however, create one of his signature-type throws on the proceeding drive; defenders draped all over him, he connected with Grimble to keep the drive alive. This lead to a 53 yard Coates reception, who, by the way, was getting behind the defense all day long. Jesse James would cap the drive with a skinny post, 9 yard touchdown reception. Lead grew to 17-6.
The following Bengals’ drive was quarterbacked by, well, Andy Dalton and company; Ross Cockrell got hit with a 20 yard pass interference penalty on AJ Green, which eventually got the ball to the 1 yard line after yet another PI call on Burns in the endzone. The Steelers defense pulled together for force a goalline stand, forcing a 21 yard Nugent field goal, making the game 17-9.
The fourth quarter brought with it some vintage Roethlisberger, as he attacked the Bengals through the air, and eventually scampered for 14 yard to set up 1st and goal. Some miscommunication in the Bengals secondary lead to a 5 yard DeAngelo Williams touchdown reception, making the game 24-9. This was the Steelers longest drive of the day, putting together 12 plays for 68 yards, eating just under 7 minutes off the clock.
An 8 play, 75 yard drive by the Bengals was capped off by a 25 yard Bernard touchdown reception, cutting the lead to 24-16. Dalton went 7/7 passing on this drive, attacking the Steelers’ zone defense and lack thereof pass rush. Fortunately for the Steelers, that was as close as the Bengals would come, as a James Harrison tackle on the following Bengals’ drive would force a game ending fumble, which was recovered by Robert Golden.
Pittsburgh had 21 first downs throughout the game, but the real issue was their 3rd down conversions, which was a measly 25% at 4/16. Elements did play a factor in this game, as Ben looked uncomfortable at times; they did, however, produce 412 total yards of offense, while allowing 374.
After surviving a rather sloppy game (in relation to Pittsburgh standards), the Steelers move to 2-0 on the season, and look to get a third consecutive win against the Philadelphia Eagles next week.