We are at the end of the regular season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and hopefully the biggest disappointment of the day will be the fact that Antonio Brown will not play today with a knee injury. Sean Davis and Vince Williams both dealt with injuries during the week and will not play as well. James Conner, however, returns after missing three weeks.
You all know the drill by now. The Steelers have to take care of business against an undermanned Cincinnati Bengals team, but they also need help from the Cleveland Browns to get the better of the Baltimore Ravens. If they get both results, they will reach the playoffs. Failing a Browns win or tie, they could still get in as a Wildcard in the unlikely event that the Colts and Titans play to a draw today.
The Steelers were given the ball first, beginning short of the 25 after a short return by Ryan Switzer. James Washington got the start absent Brown. Conner was given the first touch, picking up about five yards on first down. He checked out on second down as they went to five receivers. Ben Roethlisberger quickly found Eli Rogers for seven and an early first down.
Back to 11 personnel, the Steelers tried a reverse to Roger that was busted for a loss of four, Michael Johnson reading it perfectly. Now second and 14, Conner lowered the shoulder for about eight yards up the middle. On third and six, Vance McDonald was flagged for a false start. Now third and 11, Roethlisberger tossed an inside screen to McDonald for 12.
On the draw, Conner added a patient four yards to midfield. He got the ball again but was limited to two as he tried to protect the football. Now third and four, showing a bunch to the left and five wide, Roethlisberger threw quick to JuJu Smith-Schuster, but he was held to a short shy. The offense stayed on the field on fourth and one, Roethlisberger trying to draw the defense offsides. They chose to take a delay of game instead of running a play when they didn’t get the penalty. Jordan Berry’s punt was fair caught at the 10, but a hold on the punt pushed the Bengals to the 20.
In the meantime, the Ravens took a 3-0 lead over Cleveland following a Baker Mayfield interception.
Giovani Bernard was stuffed for no gain on first down, L.J. Fort on the tackle starting for Williams. Jeff Driskel with five wide on second down threw short to Alex Erickson for five. Now third and five, they gave the carry to Bernard for four, forcing a three-and-out.
Meanwhile, Mayfield connected with former Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman for a touchdown to give the Browns a 7-3 lead.
From the 21, Jaylen Samuels was chased down from behind for a short loss. A bubble screen to Samuels got just four yards. Now third and long, in a 02 personnel set, Roethlisberger floated a pass over the top for Rogers but incomplete.
The Bengals at their own 19, the drive began with a short gain by Joe Mixon for two yards. A short pass to John Ross was bobbled and dropped. Now third and long, a blitz didn’t get home, but Driskel’s pass to Erickson did for 14 yards.
The Ravens scored a touchdown with Lamar Jackson on the ground to retake the lead in the meantime.
Following another short gain for Mixon, Driskel was forced to throw the ball away to avoid a sack, Cameron Sutton chasing him down on the blitz. Now third and eight again, Driskel scrambled for a first down after T.J. Watt gained initial pressure.
At the 48, Stephon Tuitt cleaned up a sack for his sixth of the year, Fort on the initial pressure followed by Anthony Chickillo. After a loss of three, Morgan Burnett broke up a pass down the field for Cody Core, who stayed down after the play. He will be out for the rest of the game. Now third and 13, Tuitt got a tip on the pass to force an incompletion.
From the 18, Roethlisberger connected to Washington out of play action for seven yards. On second and three, out of the no huddle, it was a short flat to Smith-Schuster for three, on the final play of the first quarter.
Lamar Jackson fan for another touchdown to give the Ravens now a 17-7 lead.
A quick pass to Samuels picked up four. Roethlisberger just got a pass out to Samuels again to avoid a sack for five. Samuels got the first down on the ground a play later. And then Roethlisberger threw a pick six to Shawn Williams to give the Bengals a 7-0 lead as the day really begins to look quite awful for Pittsburgh. Switzer was injured on the kick return.
The Steelers’ next drive opened with a seven-yard reception by Conner and then a five-yard run. Roethlisberger found Rogers in open space for about 16 yards. He lost the ball late but was able to recover it.
At the 43, Roethlisberger tried to buy as much time as he could before he had to throw the ball short to avoid a sack, Carlos Dunlap on his back. On second down, it was back to Rogers for five. Roethlisberger was brought down for a sack on third down to end the drive.
Mixon converted on third and one after getting eight on first down. Wide open for Auden Tate for 15 across the 40. A short gain by Mixon was followed up by a first-down reception for Erickson across midfield. Following another Erickson first down, the Bengals ultimately netted a field goal to take a 10-point lead, so both results the Steelers need are trending heavily in the wrong direction.
Because of a personal foul, the Bengals kicked from their own 20, and Switzer, returning, brought the ball out to the 45. Smith-Schuster dropped a first-down pass on the first play of the drive. Roethlisberger drilled a deep pass downfield looking for Smith-Schuster again, broken up incomplete, to hit the two-minute warning. A nine-yard pass to Rogers forced a fourth and one. He found Xavier Grimble on fourth down similer to the play on which he fumbled out of the end zone.
Smith-Schuster picked up a 12-yard reception with YAC on the play after that down to the 18. Roethlisberger bounced a pass to Samuels incomplete inside the 10. He threw behind Switzer on second down. Ramon Foster was flagged for unnecessary roughness after the play, pushing the Steelers out of field goal range. From the 34 on third and 25, a screen to Samuels reached the 21. Matt McCrane connected from 39 to put the Steelers on the board at halftime.