The Steelers are looking to right the ship after a tumultuous week, but to belabor the metaphor, they won’t have all hands on deck. Out are James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Maurkice Pouncey, who is serving a two-game suspension.
Aside from the injured, including Artie Burns, joining them on the inactive list are Paxton Lynch, Zach Gentry, Chukwuma Okorafor, and the newly re-signed Tuzar Skipper.
The Steelers won the coin toss and deferred to the first half. They were able to force a fumble on the kickoff, but the Bengals recovered. After forcing and early third and medium, Ryan Finley completed for the first. Following a holding penalty on the next play, Joe Mixon was held to four yards. Joe Haden was in on the defense on a second-down pass, setting up third and 16. They picked up 15 on third down, but still punted, downing it at the two.
Benny Snell got the first carry of the day for two yards, then for one. Mason Rudolph threw late and high to Snell, who made the catch, but short of the first. Justin Layne made the tackle on the punt at the 30.
Javon Hargrave stopped Mixon after one on the following play. T.J. Watt beat Bobby Hart, again, for an early sack, and Finley had to settle for a short pass on third down to force an early three and out. The punt rolled out of bounds at about the 25. After two short passes, first to Diontae Johnson and then James Washington, finally a first down. Kerrith Whyte, in now, picked up 20 yards.
Snell got five up the middle on the next snap as the drive starts to look promising. Jessie Bates undercut Snell on second down, limiting him to a couple, now third and three. Then a false start, called on Jaylen Samuels. Johnson made a great catch on third and eight just beyond the sticks near the left sideline.
Now at the 31, Rudolph took to the air but threw to nobody in the end zone. Whyte picked up six yards on second down. They called a run to Whyte, following DeCastro off the left side for another nice gain down the sideline, setting up first and goal at the nine. He was bottled up at the line of scrimmage, however, on the following play. Rudolph scrambled for just a couple yards on second down. Rudolph was hit as he threw, the ball floating and picked by Shawn Williams for the red zone interception.
Taking over at at the 15, Mixon was able to make some moves, but was still tackled after just a year after all that. Bud Dupree tracked Mixon down from behind to finish the first quarter. Mike Hilton was flagged for pass interference on third down.
Now at the 25, Cameron Heyward led the charge with a tackle for loss on the next play. Watt swatted the ball rushing in on a screen pass. Now third and 12, Heyward got the sack this time, at 6.5 on the year. Johnson brought the punt back to the Steelers’ 45.
Snell was dropped for a short loss on first down. Rudolph scrambled and nearly took a shot to the head as he slid, picking up three yards and setting up third and eight. Rudolph took a shot on third down, getting the ball out to Samuels, who was held up just a yard shy. Jordan Berry’s next punt a 41-yarder to the 10, fair caught.
Barron came in on the blitz for a nine-yard loss on the sack, nearly a safety. Mixon could only get a yard or two on second down. Now third and 17, they took it conservative with a run for about five.
Snell jumped over DeCastro before being tackled for no gain, but a hold wiped out the play anyway. Whyte tried to do too much on first and 20, tackled for a loss. Deon Cain came up with a huge catch down the right sideline, jumping over the defensive back to make the grab. After a couple runs, setting up third and three, Snell got the carry, and picked up the first down with an assist from Ramon Foster.
Billings stuffed Snell on the next carry for a loss of one. He got seven on second down. Now third and five officially, Rudolph threw behind Tevin Jones down the right seam, incomplete. Bad throw on the quarterback. Chris Boswell was good from 26 for the first points in the game.
Ryan Finley’s mobility finally started to come into play on the next drive, avoiding a sack for a seven-yard scramble and then airing it out to Tyler Boyd down the field for a big 40-plus yarder. At the Steelers’ 15, Boyd elevated in front of Haden for the touchdown, the Bengals taking the lead 7-3 on their only competent-looking drive of the game.
After an awful return with a flag that pushed them back further, Rudolph was nearly sacked for a safety. He got the ball out to Jones for nine on second down. Now third and one, the quarterback sneak worked out, the Steelers using their first timeout. Rudolph overthrew Washington down the right side for a long incompletion. Samuels drew a horsecollar tackle penalty on the next play.
At the 37, Rudolph to Samuels for about six. After throwing wide of Johnson on second down, Rudolph was flagged for intentional grounding, forcing the Steelers to punt. Barron was flagged for defensive holding. At the 35, a short pass to Tyler Eifert for seven. Pressure forced Finley to throw the ball away. On a keeper by Finley, Steven Nelson made the open-field stop. Nice play.