The Steelers got their first AFC North divisional win this season on their third try Sunday as they beat the Cincinnati Bengals 24-17 on the road this afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Steelers defense sealed the win this week as cornerback William Gay stepped in front of an Andy Dalton pass intended for Jerome Simpson with 2:33 left in the game. Gay also was responsible for the other interception in the game as he tipped another pass intended for Andre Caldwell that was ultimately intercepted by linebacker Lawrence Timmons. It was the first time this season the Steelers defense forced two turnovers in a game and they now have 6 takeaways on the year.
The Steelers looked like they were going to run away with this game early on as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the offense to touchdowns on their first two drives. The first drive began on the Steelers own 46 yard-line and they marched 54 yards on 8 plays with it culminating in a Roethlisberger to Jerricho Cotchery touchdown pass from 16 yards out after Roethlisberger nicely side-stepped the pass rush to extend the play.
The Steelers second possession started on their own 22 yard-line and once again Roethlisberger led them down the field on a 9 play, 78 yard drive that culminated with a 2 yard touchdown run by Rashard Mendenhall.
The 14-0 lead did not last long though as the Bengals quickly answered with a 79 yard drive in 7 plays that finished with a Dalton to A.J. Green 36 yard touchdown pass. Green pulled down the pass in the endzone with both Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark both unable to defend the pass that was within their grasp. Green did suffer a knee injury on the play however and it eventually knocked him out of the game altogether.
On the third play of the Steelers next possession, tight end Heath Miller bobbled an easy pass on the left side that was eventually intercepted by Bengals cornerback Leon Hall. The Bengals were forced to settle for a Mike Nugent 43-yard field goal following the turnover and closed the gap to 14-10.
The two teams traded possessions before Roethlisberger led a 16 play, 67 yard drive just before halftime. The Steelers settled for a Shaun Suisham 39-yard field goal, but they were fortunate to get that as Roethlisberger was forced to convert three big 3rd and longs on the drive. Receiver Antonio Brown had 4 key catches on the drive as well, with two coming on the key third downs. The Steelers went to the half up 7 points.
After a 3 and out on the Steelers opening second half possession, Dalton led the Bengals on an 11 play drive that covered 67 yards. Dalton was only faced with one 3rd down on the drive and he converted to Caldwell on a 3rd and 10. After Timmons was flagged for a late hit on Caldwell just 4 plays later, the Bengals were set up on the Steelers 1 yard-line. They scored on a play action pass from Dalton to tight end Jermaine Gresham on 2nd down as linebacker Larry Foote could not cover Grisham to the left corner of the endzone.
The Steelers did answer with the game-winning drive on their next possession as they marched 81 yards on 11 plays. Mendenhall scored his second touchdown on the afternoon from 9 yards out on the Steelers bread and butter counter pike play to the right.
The Steelers defense answered the bell in the fourth quarter stopping the Bengals on their answering drive, and ultimately recorded both of their interceptions. The Steelers offense struggled to move the chains on their three key fourth quarter possessions as they ended up going three and out, three straight times. The last 3 and out set the Bengals up for one last game-tying drive with 4:28 left in the game that started at the Steelers 49 yard line. After three runs by Cedric Benson, the Bengals passed on 2nd and 9 from the Steelers 25 yard-line and that is when Gay picked off the pass of Dalton to seal the win.
Roethlisberger finished the game completing 21 of 33 passes for 245 yards and the 1 interception. Brown led all receivers as he finished with 86 yards receiving on 5 catches. Mike Wallace also chipped in 6 catches for 54 yards and another 31 yards rushing on two end-around runs. 9 different Steelers receivers had catches on the afternoon.
For the Bengals, the rookie Dalton finished with just 170 yards passing on 30 attempts. He completed just 15 of them to go along with his 2 interceptions.
As far as injuries went, head coach Mike Tomlin said after the game that Clark suffered a shoulder injury and left tackle Max Starks suffered a stinger. None of the injuries are considered serious and both Clark and Starks reported on Twitter after the game that they would be ready to go following the bye week.
The Steelers now head into the bye with a 7-3 record and are now 1-2 in the division. They will play the Chiefs on the road following the bye.