The Pittsburgh Steelers offense certainly didn’t have the first half they were looking for, putting up just nine points on three field goals. Neither did the defense, allowing 20 points over the course of the first two quarters. Both sides of the ball showed up better in the third and fourth quarters, but credit must be given most, I think, to the defensive side of the ball, which virtually shut the Bengals down in the second half.
While the Steelers managed to score or close out the game on each of their five offensive possessions in the second half, the defense held the Bengals offense to no scoring drives on four attempts, and, in fact, only mustered a total of four first downs. They never even got outside of their own half of the field, advancing, at best, to the 41-yard line, after which the Steelers promptly intercepted the next pass.
Cincinnati looked like they might have some success early, even though they ended up starting from their own 10-yard line, rattling off a nine-yard run on second-and-six for a new set of downs at the 23. A nine-yard pass on third and five gave them their second of two first downs on the opening drive of the half, but they only went backward from there with a run stop for a loss of three, and then a sack that dropped them back 11 yards to the 28.
The offense came back with their second field goal of the half on the ensuing drive, which at the time made it a five-point game, and the defense quickly got back to work. Following a quick eight-yard reception and a one-yard run, the Bengals were able to convert on third and inches, but on the following play, Lawrence Timmons intercepted Andy Dalton and put the offense in position for yet another field goal, making it a two-point game.
The defense responded on their next drive by forcing a three-and-out, Cincinnati actually losing one yard in total. Ross Cockrell had a key pass deflection on the third-and-11 throw to get his teammates off the field and get the offense rolling again.
The offense did finally get rolling, and authored a three minute drive that ended in the go-ahead touchdown pass, turning it again over to the defense to make sure that they would be able to hold the lead. And they did.
While Dalton was able to connect on first down from the 25 on a 14-yard reception, that was all he would find, as the defense made a run stop for a loss of four on the following play, chased Dalton out of the pocket to throw the ball away on second down, and then forced an incompletion and a punt.
That got the ball back in the offense’s possession with about six minutes left to play, and that was that. The Bengals gained a net of just 38 yards on their final four possessions in the second half, with the defense pitching a shutout in a half for I believe the fifth time this year—second time in the second half.