As per usual, a handful of plays help determine a game’s outcome one way or another. Sunday’s battle between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field was no different.
With the Steelers missing the playoffs after the Baltimore Ravens beat the Cleveland Browns to win the AFC North, let’s take a look at the top 5 plays that changed the game in what turned out to be a meaningless win at home.
Play 5 — 4th & 11 at PIT 31 (2:12 – 2nd) (Field Goal formation) R.Bullock 49 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-C.Harris, Holder-K.Huber. PENALTY on CIN-A.Redmond, Unnecessary Roughness, 15 yards, enforced between downs.
With Pittsburgh’s offense stuck in mud in the first half against the Bengals, Cincinnati kicker Randy Bullock capped off a 12-play, 52-yard drive with this 49-yard field goal that stretched the Bengals’ lead to 10-0 with just over 2 minutes left in the first half.
It looked as if Pittsburgh was going to push the Bengals out of field goal range thanks to an unnecessary roughing penalty on guard Alex Redmond, but the Steelers allowed Alex Erickson to pick up 13 yards on a 2nd and 24, setting up Bullock’s 49-yarder.
Play 4 — 4th & 1 at CIN 46 (1:08 – 2nd) B.Roethlisberger pass short left to X.Grimble to CIN 30 for 16 yards (J.Bates)
Late in the second quarter after the Bengals took a 10-0 lead, the Steelers needed to put together a good 2-minute drive to put points on the board before the half.
That drive looked like it might stall until the 16-yard catch-and-run by Xavier Grimble on 4th and 1 moved the chains, later leading to Matt McCrane’s 39-yard field goal.
This looked a lot like Grimble’s 24-yard catch-and-run at Denver in which he fumbled the ball out of the end zone for a touchback. This time though, he held onto the football, moving the chains and leading to points on the board for the Steelers.
Play 3 —1st & 10 at PIT 26 (5:15 – 3rd) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass deep right to J.Washington to CIN 27 for 47 yards (K.Russell)
James Washington is going to be just fine, folks.
This 47-yard bomb from Ben Roethlisberger to Washington seemed to really get the Steelers going offensively on the second drive of the second half, as two plays later – following a 16-yard run by James Conner – JuJu Smith-Schuster took an a short pass off to the right 11 yards into the end zone, knotting the game up at 10-10.
The Steelers really set this deep shot up well as Pittsburgh consistently ran the quick outs to the boundary against the Bengals in the first half, setting up this double move to Washington past KeiVarae Russell down the right sideline.
Play 2 — 1st & 10 at CIN 34 (8:28 – 4th) J.Mixon right guard to PIT 15 for 51 yards (C.Sensabaugh)
After the Steelers drove 48 yards in 13 plays, eating up 7 minutes, 19 seconds of game clock to take a 13-10 lead in the fourth quarter, the Bengals struck back quickly, thanks to this 51-yard burst up the middle of the Steelers’ defense by Joe Mixon.
Pittsburgh had mostly bottled up Mixon prior to this run, but the Bengals’ standout second-year back busted this one off, setting the Bengals up in the red zone, leading to a field goal four plays later.
Pittsburgh was able to hold Cincinnati to a field goal thanks to a sack by Cam Heyward on 3rd and 2, setting up Bullock for his second field goal of the night.
Play 1 — 2nd & 6 at PIT 45 (12:37 – 2nd) Shawn Williams 58 Yard Interception Return R.Bullock extra point is GOOD, Center-C.Harris, Holder-K.Huber.
Roethlisberger gifted Cincinnati their first points of the game with this dreadful throw up the seam to Smith-Schuster. Impressively, Roethlisberger didn’t see Shawn Williams lurking at all in the middle of the field, allowing the Bengals safety to pick off the pass and run it back 58 yards for the game’s first score.
The Steelers’ veteran quarterback thought he had a free play and tried to force the throw, but once again, he tried doing too much and it led to a massive turnover.
Prior to the pick-6 by the Bengals, they had 30 yards of total offense and looked in complete disarray on that side of the ball. That’s where Roethlisberger stepped in, gifting them 6 points. He doesn’t throw that pick-6, I’m willing to bet quite a bit of money the Bengals don’t put up anything more than 6 points.
Pittsburgh was able to overcome it in the end, but it was a massive mistake early in the game and kept a poor team around.