The Steelers bring a 20-14 lead into the second half, but the game is close, and the defense has looked beatable on the day, allowing two touchdown drives after a strong opening drive, and another to close the half. The offense has looked strong, but left some points on the board with two field goals in the red zone.
Alex Erickson could not make it to the 20-yard line on the opening kickoff. Starting at the 17 for the Bengals, it was Andy Dalton off play action, incomplete to the left sideline looking for Cody Core. Jeremy Hill was stopped for a short gain on second down. On third and nine, Dalton was forced to scramble under pressure. Ryan Shazier did a nice job of covering his receiver before Dalton crossed the line, then brought him down short of the sticks. Dalton limped off the field. On the punt, Antonio Brown called for a fair catch at the 23.
The Steelers offense got off to a start on the ground, with Le’Veon Bell going for three. Staying on the ground, the blocking got Bell free to the right edge for 15, approaching midfield now. After a gain of three up the middle on the following play, Ben Roethlisberger’s play-action pass looking for Brown was nicely broken up by William Jackson III. Pretty play. Setting up a third and long now, however, Roethlisberger was able to step out of the pocket and hit Brown on the run for the first down and more off the scramble drill.
Up the middle for four with Bell on first down, he followed that up with seven with burst and power through the right-side B Gap. At the 28, however, he was held for just a short gain thereafter. But they stuck to the ground, adding eight to make it third and a yard. Still in for Bell, the back was unfortunately blown up in the backfield for a loss of three. Chris Boswell did connect from 41 to make it 23-14, now a two-possession game for the first time.
After a seven-yard run from Bernard, Dalton’s pass looking for A.J. Green was wide, and Joe Haden was able to scoop the ball for his first interception with the Steelers, setting up the offense at the Bengals’ 40.
Staying on the ground, Bell was lucky to get any forward progress on first down. But once again they stuck with the run and picked up another eight, setting up third and one. This time Roethlisberger looked for it all to Brown, but Jackson once again made a nice play, batting the ball down. He did get away with a penalty. Boswell from 49 was perfect, making it 26-14, however, off of the Haden interception.
Following a touchback, Dalton went play-action to Joe Mixon but couldn’t find anybody but Mixon open, dumping it off to him. Sean Davis landed a big hit on him, losing the ball but regaining it for six. On second and four, off more play-action, he hit C.J. Uzomah for the short gain for a first.
From the 38, Dalton was forced to shovel a pass up to Mixon, but he connected for a decent gain to set up second and four. A deep shot looking to Core was caught ,but out of bounds, against Haden. He also got a hand in there to bobble it. On the following play, Dalton looked deep, Davis breaking the ball up, and William Gay picked it off.
Off play action, Roethlisberger took a deep shot to Martavis Bryant, but the wide receiver could not locate the ball, falling incomplete. Bell fought for 11 yards on the next play. But he was stopped for a short loss on the following play. On second and 11, he was dropped for another loss, setting up third and 13. Roethlisberger connected with Xavier Grimble for his first catch of the year, but a yard short.
At the start of the fourth quarter, they elected to give Terrell Watson the ball on fourth and one. He was initially ruled to have gotten the first down, but the Bengals challenged the ruling on the field, and it was reversed, resulting in a turnover on downs.
From the 38 for the Bengals, T.J. Watt brought down Bernard from behind after a short gain. A short pass to Tyler Kroft set up a third and short. Dalton was gotten to quickly on third down, Watt again making the play, blasting through the B Gap for the Steelers’ first sack of the game and forcing a punt. Brown stepped out of a fair catch, letting the ball bounce all the way back to the four.
On first down from the four, Bell got a burst up the middle for six to get away from the goal line. The Steelers pushed the pocket for about three yards. On third and one, they put in Watson, but they threw out of play action. Roethlisberger was under pressure too quickly and had to get the ball out fast, throwing too long for Brown to run underneath. Cincinnati got a good return off of the punt.
From the Steelers’ 45, Bud Dupree blew by the tackle to get a hit on Dalton, setting up Tyson Alualu to clean up the sack, the second sack in as many plays, setting up second and 21. Watt applied pressure to force an incompletion. On third and 21, Dupree blasted through the line and dropped Dalton for a big loss, making it fourth and 34. Brown got a short return off a long punt.
After a three-yarder, Bell was able to cut back for six, setting up third and one, one which the Bengals were flagged for encroachment, getting a free first down yet again. A three-yard gain for Bell, with Michael Johnson and Vincent Rey injured for the Bengals on the play. The Steelers ran a fake punt, Robert Golden throwing down the field for Darrius Heyward-Bey, a completion for over 40 yards on the play.
Down to the 16, Bell got two or three yards inside the 15. To the 10 for Bell, the Steelers now face a third and four. They stayed on the ground and Bell picked up three, but was short by a yard. Yet another Boswell field goal made it 29-14, his fifth field goal of the game.
Vince Williams almost got his fifth sack of the season, but it was cleaned up by Cameron Heyward. Shazier ran the back down on a check down for no gain. On third and 11, Dalton’s pass to Kroft went for about eight. On fourth and three, pressure forced Dalton to throw the ball away for a turnover on downs.
Taking over at the 33 now, James Conner was given work at the end of the game for 11 yards, looking like he came up limping a bit, but he stayed in. Conner came up with another five yards up the middle to wind the clock down to the two-minute warning. They were able to run out the clock from that point on to move to 5-2, winners of their last two and now first place in the AFC, with a two-game lead in the division.