Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football for all the marbles and by all the marbles, I mean last place in the AFC North. The loser of tonight’s contest will drop to the bottom of the AFC North while the winner will jump into third place and trail the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens by just one game.
Steelers enter this contest banged up again as Roosevelt Nix, Anthony Chickillo, Vince Williams and Vance McDonald are inactive due to injury. Donte Moncrief makes his return after being a healthy scratch last week while Nick Vannett makes his Steelers’ debut.
Steelers win the toss and elect to defer. First play of the game sees Joe Mixon pick up four yards. First third down of the game sees Andy Dalton connect on a nice back shoulder pass to Tyler Eifert. Bengals driving into Steelers’ territory with Dalton connecting with Tyler Boyd for 15-yards across the middle. A few plays later and Devin Bush grabs his first sack of his career, setting up third and long. On third and 14, the Bengals opt for a quick screen to Mixon and the Steelers hold it to a gain of three and get off the field.
On the Steelers’ second play from scrimmage, Diontae Johnson fumbles on a short pass with the Bengals recovering. Bengals will take over at the Steelers 15-yard line. Rough start for the offense.
The Bengals failed to capitalize and had to settle for three points after Dalton’s pass went off the fingertips of Eifert on a fade pass in the end zone. 3-0 Bengals.
Steelers get the ball back and looks like Mason Rudolph is operating in no huddle after a 9-yard strike to JuJu Smith-Schuster. After James Conners picks up the first down, the Steelers begin to operate out of a wildcat-like formation with Rudolph out wide and Jaylen Samuels receiving the snap. Two plays out of the wildcat, first a direct snap to Samuels and the next a sweep with Conner picks up another first down. Steelers driving into Bengals’ territory and are eventually faced with a 4th and 1 at the Bengals 41-yard line. On fourth and 1, the Bengals defense stuffs Conner in the backfield. Turnover on downs. Two drives – one resulting in a turnover and the other a turnover on downs.
On 2nd and 11, Mike Hilton made a great pass breakup on a pass intended for Tyler Boyd. On third and long, Dalton delivered a perfect ball to Steelers cornerback Joe Haden, though Haden was unable to hang onto the throw. Fourth down and the Bengals punt.
Lots of movement in the Steelers backfield early. Rudolph fakes an end around to Johnson only to pitch it to Samuels for a gain of five on first down. The next play also is pitched to Samuels, this time on the right side and it picks up a first down. On second and nine, Rudolph attempts a deep ball down the right sideline to Johnny Holton but it falls incomplete. Holton is called for offensive pass interference but Mike Tomlin throws a challenge flag. Somehow, the call stands. (I have no idea what pass interference is at this point).
On 1st and 20, Rudolph does his best Big Ben impression and avoids pressure before connecting with Nick Vannett for his first reception as a Steeler, it picks up 11 yards. A screen pass to Conner on the next play picks up enough for the first down. First quarter ends with the Steelers driving in Cincinnati territory.
On third and four from the Bengals’ 48-yard line, Rudolph floats a pass to no one near the left sideline. Looked like a miscommunication between Rudolph and JuJu.
Bengals take over from their 10-yard line and Bush meets Mixon in the hole for no gain on their first play. Bush has been all over the field tonight. On third and long, Dalton fires an incomplete pass. Second straight three and out. Steelers defense has played great thus far.
Steelers take over at the Bengals’ 46-yard line after the Bengals punt from their own end zone. After Conner picked up eight yards, Rudolph found Samuels on a roll out for 9-yards. Samuels has gotten involved much more tonight. A few plays later, the Steelers get on the board with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Rudolph to Conner. That drive exclusively featured the Steelers’ running backs. 7-3 Steelers.
Bengals get the ball back at their own 25-yard line following the kickoff and Mixon takes it for 9-yards on first down. On third and one, Dalton sneaks forward to move the chains. Bengals utilizing play action a lot more now. On 2nd and 5, Dalton finds Boyd for a 13-yard gain on play action. Dalton finds John Ross on the sideline at the Pittsburgh 18-yard line for another first down. On the following play, Bud Dupree beats Andre Smith around the edge and strips the ball from Dalton and the fumble is recovered by T.J. Watt.
Steelers take over at their own 29-yard line. Rudolph begins driving once again as he connects with Conner on 2nd down to move the chains and then finds Johnson for 7-yards on the following 1st down to put the Steelers near midfield. Samuels gains back-to-back first downs from there, taking a dump off pass and then running up the middle for 13-yards. The ground and pound continues to wear away the Bengals as Conner runs around the left end for 11-yards to put the ball at the Bengals’ 14-yard line. Two minute warning.
Rudolph connects with JuJu on a pass near the left sideline that picks up -2 yards. JuJu receives a big hit and walks gingerly but stays in the game. On third and 3 a few plays later, Samuels is tackled in the backfield for a four yard loss. Boswell nails the 24-yard field goal to put the Steelers up 10-3 with just over a minute remaining in the half.
T.J. Watt sacks Dalton on the ensuing Bengals’ drive and the clock runs out on this half. Steelers up 10-3 at the half.