A stagnant offense and banged-up defense led to the Steelers’ second-straight home loss, as they fell 24-10 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Steelers went three-and-out on their opening drive after QB Ben Roethlisberger missed WR James Washington deep down the sideline on third-and-six. The defense responded with a stop, but penalties took away a 10-yard run by RB Najee Harris and a 12-yard reception by the rookie and the Steelers were forced to punt from their own 7.
The Pittsburgh defense broke through with their first interception of the season when S Terrell Edmunds caught a tipped pass off the hands of Bengals’ WR Tyler Boyd and returned it 14 yards to the Pittsburgh 44. The Bengals got the ball with a turnover of their own, when LB Logan Wilson caught a Roethlisberger pass that was affected by pressure from DE Sam Hubbard, who hit Roethlisberger as he threw.
The Bengals capitalized with a touchdown when QB Joe Burrow hit WR Tyler Boyd who ran through a tackle attempt by OLB Melvin Ingram for a 17-yard score to put Cincinnati up 7-0.
Roethlisberger got sacked on first down of the Steelers’ next drive by DE Cam Sample. A four-yard Harris run setup third-and-11, and a pass interference penalty by Bengals’ CB Chidobe Awuzie gave the Steelers’ their first first down of the game. On third-and-seven, former Steelers’ CB Mike Hilton tried to jump the snap and went offsides to give Pittsburgh a third-and-two. Roethlisberger scrambled for five yards to pick up the first down, but the Steelers couldn’t capitalize and punted from the Cincinnati 46.
Bengals’ RB Joe Mixon ran for 27 yards on first down but the Bengals couldn’t move past their own 46 and were forced to punt. The Steelers then put together a 15-play, 86 yard drive that included a 20-yard run by Harris and an 18-yard completion to Harris off a swing pass out of the backfield. Rookie TE Pat Freiermuth finished the drive off with a four-yard touchdown from Roethlisberger. It was Freiermuth’s first career touchdown. K Chris Boswell’s extra-point tied the score at 7-7.
With 1:04 left in the half, the Bengals worked quickly and found the end zone in 27 seconds. After a seven-yard reception to Tyler Boyd, OLB Melvin Ingram was called for roughing the passer to give the Bengals another 15 yards, and then Burrow with WR Mike Thomas for 19 yards before a 34-yard touchdown pass to WR Ja’Marr Chase and the Bengals took a 14-7 lead, which they would hold going into the half.
The Bengals scored on their first drive of the second half when kicker Evan McPherson knocked through a 43-yard field goal to extend their lead to 17-7. The Bengals moved the ball downfield with little resistance, but the Steelers defense managed to hold Cincinnati to three on the drive.
On third-and-four of the Steelers next drive, Roethlisberger threw his second interception of the game to Wilson, who returned it to the Pittsburgh 19. Burrow would throw his third touchdown pass of the day on the ensuing drive, finding Chase from nine yards out, and McPherson’s extra point was good to give Cincinnati a 24-7 lead. The Steelers drove into Cincinnati territory highlighted by a 15-yard pass to Freiermuth and a 21-yard reception by Najee Harris. However, the Steelers came up empty when Boswell’s 42-yard field goal attempt went wide left.
Pittsburgh forced a Cincinnati three-and-out on their next drive, but Kevin Huber’s 54-yard punt along with a holding penalty against CB Justin Layne meant the Steelers would start their drive from their own 4-yard line. On third-and-11, Roethlisberger found WR Chase Claypool for a 16-yard reception to keep the drive alive, and later in the drive he connected with WR Ray-Ray McCloud for 24 yards. A couple of short completions to WR Cody White and Claypool moved the Steelers to the Cincinnati 38. After a pass interference penalty against Eli Apple, Pittsburgh advanced to the Cincinnati 18. They moved to the Bengals 3-yard line, but penalties hurt the Steelers from there as Claypool was called for pass interference and Dan Moore was flagged for false start the play after a Roethlisberger sack. Harris got a five-yard reception on second-and-goal from the Cincinnati 21 and followed that up with an eight-yard reception to get inside the ten. Boswell made the 26-yard field goal to make it a two-score game at 24-10.
The Steelers defense got a stop, and they had the ball back at their own 15 with 6:25 left in the game. On second-and-ten, Roethlisberger overthrew Washington on a would-be touchdown, but he moved the chains the next play with an 11-yard completion to White and then found Claypool for 17 on second-and-five.
Claypool came up big again with a 29-yard reception and Pittsburgh was just outside the red zone at the Cincinnati 23. A few plays later on first-and-ten on the Cincinnati 11, Roethlisberger was sacked for the fourth time in the game, which set up a 2nd and 18. An eight-yard completion to James Washington brought it to third-and-ten, but Roethlisberger was incomplete to TE Eric Ebron. On fourth-and-ten the Steelers ran a screen to Harris that went nowhere, and the Bengals took over up 24-10 with 3:02 to go. A three-and-out by the Bengals led to the Steelers getting the ball back with 1:54 left and no timeouts, and after Roethlisberger found Harris for eight yards, the Steelers had three straight drops, two by Harris and one by Claypool to effectively end the game.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Pittsburgh next week, as they travel to Lambeau Field to take on the Packers next Sunday at 4:25 p.m.