The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to take on their chief rivals–at least when it comes to competing for playoff wins and positioning–the Cincinnati Bengals today, with both AFC North teams coming off Week One victories, though the Steelers’ victory came surer in hand, while the Bengals narrowly escaped the Jets.
Neither team is at full capacity, of course, due to injury and suspension. Notable absences for the Steelers include wide receiver Markus Wheaton, out with a shoulder injury, and running back Le’Veon Bell, who is out for the second of a three-game suspension. The Bengals remain without injured tight end Tyler Eifert, while linebacker Vontaze Burfict, too, is in the midst of a three-game suspension.
Here are the official inactive lists for both sides:
QB Zach Mettenberger
C/G Cody Wallace (knee)
Markus Wheaton (shoulder)
FB Roosevelt Nix (back)
DE L.T. Walton
LB Steven Johnson
CB Senquez Golson
QB Jeff Driskel
WR Cody Core
CB Chykie Brown
OL Christian Westerman
DT DeShawn Williams
TE Tyler Eifert
CB KeiVarae Russell
The Steelers received the opening kickoff, with DeAngelo William picking up eight yards on first down. He got halfway to the first down on second down. On a draw handoff on third and short, Williams was stopped short, and Jordan Berry‘s punt went for a touchback.
From the 20, Jeremy Hill was stopped at the line of scrimmage, but found five yards on second down. Andy Dalton connected with the rookie Tyler Boyd for 10 yards. Hill was stopped after a two-yard gain by Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons at the 37-yard line. Dalton threw incomplete to A.J. Green on third down, but the pass was incomplete. Eli Rogers returned the punt six yards to the 16-yard line.
Williams gained four yards on two carries to begin the Steelers’ second drive to set up a third and six. Antonio Brown got free for 16 yards on the play, and Williams followed on the next snap winning the corner for 11 yards. Following an incompletion to Jesse James, Ben Roethlisberger went back to the second-year tight end for 11 yards.
The drive began to stall after crossing midfield, with a one-yard run and then an incomplete pass on second down, followed by a false start to set up third and 14. Roethlisberger threw an inside screen to Williams, who picked up about nine yards to the 38. Roethlisberger threw errant on fourth down, intercepted by Adam Jones at the 21-yard line. While that is worse on the stat sheet, it is better in the game. Brown was open on the play.
Sean Davis covered Green on first down for an incompletion. A third-down incompletion on a high, wet pass yielded a punt with Brown back to receive it. He fielded it at the 20-yard line for a 14-yard return.
Williams picked up one yard up the middle to begin the drive. Under pressure, Roethlisberger threw a hot pass in the direction of Xavier Grimble over the middle incomplete. On third and nine, Roethlisberger spun out of the pocket and looked down the field to find Sammie Coates getting open behind the cornerback for a big gain of 44 yards.
Following a timeout, from the 21, Williams was lucky to pick up a yard to the right. Roethlisberger fired a hot pass down the field to Grimble, who made the tough reception at about the four-yard line and dove after contact to get the tip of the ball across the goal line for the score before his knee touched the field. Chris Boswell‘s extra point made it 7-0.
Boswell’s first kickoff of the day in the rain was a touchback. Dalton’s first pass of the drive was caught for a first down by Brandon LaFell for 13. Dalton scrambled for five yards after finding nobody open. Off play action, Green got over Ross Cockrell for 21 yards, and then the tight end added another 21 over the middle over Shazier. Now at the 15, Giovani Bernard picked up about three yards. A low throw intended for LaFell resulted in an incompletion. On third and six, the secondary stopped Bernard on a check down throw in front of the first-down marker. A field goal made the score 7-3.
Fitzgerald Toussaint was stopped before the 20-yard line on the return. Roethlisberger threw complete to David Johnson for five yards to end the first quarter. On second and five, Grimble could not snag a sideline pass off play action. On third down, Roethlisberger connected with Eli Rogers for the first down on his first reception of the game. After slipping on the wet grass, Roethlsiberger re-established his base and connected with James for nine yards. He found Williams on the next play, who found the corner for the first down to midfield.
Coates took the ball on the end around for about six or seven yards. Adam Jones came off the field after that play, who was in on the tackle. On second down, Williams picked up a yard on draw. On third and three, Roethlisberger fired a quick pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was hit in the head as he failed to complete the reception, but there was no call. The Steelers punted and netted a fair catch at the 10-yard line.
Bernard was stopped for no gain on first down trying to cut outside to the right. On second down, Dalton’s pass to his tight end down the first was incomplete, high and wide. On third and 10, the Steelers got great pressure, forcing Dalton to check down for just two yards under duress as his pass forced the receiver out of bounds. Punting from the 12, a 55-yard punt yielded just a four-yard return for Brown on a punt that initially looked returnable.
Roethlisberger was sacked on first down on an in-the-grasp ruling for a loss of nine. Now back to the 28, Williams picked up three yards on the ground. On third and 16, Roethlisberger’s pass was too high to Brown down the field as he stepped up into the throw. Berry’s punt was fielded at the 11 for 58 yards with a nine-yard return, but Jordan Dangerfield was blocked in the back, resulting in a penalty on the return. The Bengals, in fact, had three penalties on the play.
On first down from the nine, Timmons got into the backfield for the run stop. Boyd’s second-down reception came up just shy of moving the sticks. On third and short, Shazier’s pressure on Dalton forced him to throw the ball away to force a three-and-out. Rogers was back to return the fourth punt of the game, returning it 15 yards to around midfield.
Two carries on the first two plays of the drive yielded no yards. On third and 10, Roethlisberger slipped as James missed his block around the edge, but the quarterback regathered himself and fired downfield to Brown, who let the ball bounce off his chest for one of the more blatant drops that he has had in his career. Berry’s punt was fair caught at the five-yard line, and a personal foul set them back half the distance to the goal.
After no gain on first and second down, the Bengals went conservative with an inside draw for minimal gain. The punt only traveled 34 yards to the 36. Off play action, Roethlisberger field down the field behind Rogers for an incompletion. Daryl Richardson was able to find six yards on second down to the 30. An incompletion yielded a 49-yard field goal for Boswell and a 10-3 lead.
Dalton’s second-and-three pass was deflected by Cameron Heyward at the line of scrimmage, but he found Boyd at midfield between two receivers. Bernard picked up two yards with Timmons in on the tackle up the middle. Dalton fired incomplete to Uzomah to set up a third and long. Bernard was stopped on a check down after five yards. Punting from the Steelers’ 45, Rogers fair caught at the eight. Williams picked up about eight yards on first down. Roethlsiberger looked deep for Coates, but too far. On third and two, Roethlisberger floated a light pass while getting hit to Williams for the first down. Roethlisberger looked deep for Coates again down the right sideline, with Dre Kirkpatrick in good coverage, who intercepted the ball as a receiver for the second interception of the day.
From the 32 of their own, a 24-yard catch-and-run for Bernard took the Bengals past midfield. From Pittsburgh’s 44, LaFell dropped the ball over the middle, with Gay making contact to assure no second effort. Under pressure, Dalton found Tyler Kroft for a seven-yard gain. On third and three, Dalton threw past his receiver incomplete, with a dropped interception opportunity by Jarvis Jones. Dalton connected with Uzomah on fourth down with 16 seconds left, now in more comfortable field goal range. Green beat Cockrell to the outside for a first down. Artie Burns was in coverage on a target for LaFell, batting the ball away to save a touchdown. Mike Nugent‘s field goal attempt was good to make it 10-6 heading into halftime.