The Pittsburgh Steelers crawl into the second half nursing a precarious 10-6 lead after struggling on offense. Ben Roethlisberger has been errant and also had a couple of dropped passes hurt his production, completing only nine of 21 passes, mostly in the first quarter, for 128 yards and a touchdown, but he was also intercepted twice.
Antonio Brown has just one reception for 16 yards after dropping another easy pass. Xavier Grimble caught his first pass of his career for the Steelers’ lone touchdown. DeAngelo Williams had been fair on the ground, but has just 45 yards on 15 attempts. The offense has just one explosive play, a 44-yarder to Sammie Coates.
The team has been winning the field position battle for most of the game, but they have squandered the majority of their opporunities with just a 10-6 lead. The game could have been tied if not for an Artie Burns pass deflection in the end zone to end the first half.
Chris Boswell‘s half-opening kickoff was another touchback. From the 25, pressure forced Andy Dalton to try to get the ball to the running back, incomplete. On second down, Jarvis Jones made the stop on the ground from behind for three yards. On third and seven, the Steelers blitzed and forced Dalton to rush the pass, low and incomplete to the left, with Ross Cockrell getting his fingertips on it, angling away from him. Eli Rogers returned the punt for six yards. Rogers had the ball jarred loose before he was down, though he was ruled down. Darrius Heyward-Bey recovered regardless.
From the 33-yard line, a quick pass to Brown motioning around the right of the formation picked up three yards, but it got the ball back in his hands on offense. On second down, Williams squeezed through a hole for eight yards to about the 44. The snap was low and Roethlisberger handed to Williams, who was stopped for no gain off the poor snap. On second and 10, the veteran back showed shiftiness to pick up about six yards to make it a manageable third down. Roethlisberger looked deep for Coates, and was nearly intercepted once again by Dre Kirkpatrick, who intercepted Roethlsiberger toward the end of the first half.
Jordan Berry‘s punt was fielded and fair caught at the seven-yard line. On first down, Jeremy Hill took a screen pass 25 yards, who was chased down the field by Javon Hargrave, but he was flagged for a horse-collar tackle in the process, a very frustrating opening-drive play for the defense. Bengals at the 48 now.
Dalton flushed right, then left, looking for somebody open, and was ultimately tagged down just shy of the original line of scrimmage by Arthur Moats, a sack only by technicality. On second and 10, Ryan Shazier cut down Hill on a pitch option deep in the backfield for a bit of a gain. On third and long, Dalton stepped up in the pocket and tried to pitch the ball to the receiver, but William Gay was there with the hit to help induce the incompletion. Rogers remained back to return the punt, fielded at the eight for a fair catch.
Williams picked up seven yards on first down to the 16. The counter trey to the left yielded five yards and a first down. From the 23, Roethlisberger found Fitzgerald Toussaint for a nine-yard gain. He connected on another long ball to Coates for 53 yards, and followed up by finding Jesse James in the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown, the second of his career, and Roethlsiberger’s second of the game. The Steelers grabbed a 17-6 lead.
Following a touchback, the Bengals drive began with a holding penalty on Andrew Whitworth. A delay of game added five more, setting up first and 25 from 10. But Dalton connected vertically over Sean Davis for 29 yards to get the first down.
Off play action, Dalton spun out of pressure but threw the ball away. Tyler Kroft picked up yards after contact, but not enough for the first. On third and three, Cockrell was tagged for pass interference. From the 14, Hill made two defenders miss for four yards. Dalton fired out of bounds far out of the range of LaFell to set up third and six in the red zone. LaFell drew pass interference on Burns to set up first and goal at the one.
Shazier came in around the edge to trip up Hill in the backfield for a loss of one. Uzomah was ruled out of bounds on a catch, forced out by Robert Golden. Dalton found nobody open on third down, with Cockrell able to deflect a pass in the end zone. A field goal made it 17-9, however.
From the 25, Williams wriggled his way through the middle for about five yards. Williams was able eventually to catch the sideline for four yards. On third and one, the Bengals were flagged for a neutral zone infraction. From the 39, Roethlisberger fired high for James after a pump fake. Williams picked up about six yards on second down. Roethlisberger and Brown were not on the same page on an overthrown third-down pass, or at least the pass sailed away from him, to force the Steelers to punt. Shamarko Thomas did a beautiful job of tackling the returner inside the 10 just after he made the catch.
Hill picked up a short gain on the ground to end the third quarter. On third and seven, Dalton threw incomplete to the rookie Boyd. The ensuing punt bounced and rolled out of bounds at the Steelers’ 32-yard line.
A short pass over the middle to Brown picked up three yards, his third reception two minutes into the fourth quarter. On second and seven, Williams struggled to find the edge for no gain. On third and long, Roethlisberger found Brown in between two defenders for 17 yards, hopefully to get the All-Pro going.
Williams was stuffed on first down near midfield. Williams found a nice one-cut gain off a reception for the first down and more to put him over 100 total yards for the game. From the 31, Darrius Heyward-Bey was the recipient of a screen to the right flat, gaining about seven yards with James blocking. Toussaint squeezed through a narrow gap up the middle for a four-yard gain and a first-down conversion.
From the 20, Williams picked up about two yards on a run up the middle. Roethlisberger scrambled for 14 yards to set up first and goal. From the five, Williams was able to add about a yard at most before being brought down. Roethlisberger’s pass to Brown was incomplete, tipped out of bounds by Karlos Dansby. Williams was left wide open in the shallow left corner of the end zone, and Roethlisberger found him for the touchdown. The extra point made it 24-9.
From the 25, Dalton was able to get the ball out of Bernard in the flat, getting beyond a defender or two for a gain of seven. On second and three, he found Bernard over the middle for 12. Cameron Heyward remained down after the play, eventually able to walk off as the trainers arrived. He was replaced by Ricardo Mathews.
With under six minutes to play, Dalton dumped off another one to Bernard, this for nine yards. Uzomah picked up three in front of Cockrell for the first down. Bernard once again picked up eight yards through two missed tackles. James Wright converted for a first down, making another tackler miss, with Davis making the tackle. Dalton scrambled for a three-yard gain with Daniel McCullers getting penetration. Bernard beat the rookie Burns to the sideline, able to flush wide and race to the end zone to answer the Steelers’ late score and make it a one-possession game again with under four minutes to play.
Coates took a knee in the end zone to begin the drive at the 25. Williams was able to gather three yards on first down as the Bengals used their first timeout. He was good for only one on second down.
From the 25, after a punt, Dalton was incomplete looking for Kroft over the middle. LaFell picked up nine yards on second down to make it third and short. Bernard picked up the first down and more and got out of bounds on the delayed handoff for 10 yards.
From the 44, Dalton found LaFell for 17 yards over the middle at the two-minute warning. After a reception over the middle, James Harrison made the hit on Boyd, with Golden scooping it up and returning it, but it looks like it’s going to be overturned. Surprise, surprise, however, the play stands as called on the field. I do not agree with that decision. But I’m not going to protest too much.
Taking over at the Bengals’ 46, Williams was stopped quickly for a loss of one. After picking up six, he lost three yards on third down. Berry sent a punt into the end zone from 49 yards out for the touchback. The Steelers emerge victorious after the Bengals desperate lateral play ended in a fumble recovered by the defense.