Pittsburgh Steelers Versus Cincinnati Bengals – First Half Recap
By Matthew Marczi
The Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Cincinnati to play the Bengals in a game in which both teams are seeking redemption for a tough opening week loss. The Steelers lost three players for the season due to injury, including center Maurkice Pouncey, who has been replaced with Fernando Velasco. Fullback Will Johnson returns to action after not playing any snaps last week.
The Steelers lost the coin toss, but the Bengals deferred, with Felix Jones back to return the opening kickoff. James Harrison gets a crack at Ben Roethlisberger right away.
Jones got some decent blocking on the opening kickoff, which helped the Steelers start at the 35-yard line. Jones was the first back in and got the carry on the opening play for no gain. The Steelers went no huddle and Jones gained just one yard on second down as well. On third down, Jones got just four yards to complete the opening drive disappointment.
Zoltan Mesko got off a good punt, which was returned to just outside the 20. Jarvis Jones did indeed start. Kion Wilson, replacing Larry Foote, made the first tackle after a five-yard gain. Andy Dalton dropped back to pass on second down and had plenty of time, but his eventual throw sailed over Tyler Eifert’s head. Cameron Heyward came in on third down, but it was Brett Keisel getting the pressure and forcing a poor throw to force a three-and-out.
The Steelers tried once again to get a spark on special teams as Antonio Brown broke loose on the punt return for 40 yards to get deep into Bengals territory. On first down, Roethlisberger took a shot to Emmanuel Sanders, but they could not connect. On second down, Roethlisberger was sacked by Carlos Dunlap, who beat Marcus Gilbert. Domata Peko also got the bull rush on David DeCastro to meet up at the quarterback. On third and 16, Felix Jones ran a delayed draw to gain 14 yards to put the Steelers in field goal range, which Shaun Suisham made, right down the middle, from 40+ to take a 3-0 lead.
Andy Dalton continued to struggle with his accuracy, which in part set up the third and two. Dalton continually went to A.J. Green, who converted the third down with Ike Taylor in off coverage. BenJarvus Green-Ellis gained ten yards on the following play. He was dropped for a loss on second and three, however, to set up another third down. Robert Golden was in the game in the dime, and he saw a fair number of snaps. On third and 10, more pressure once again forced a high pass. The Bengals’ second punt was much better, as it rolled out of bounds at the three.
On first down, Felix Jones gained three yards. Antonio Brown used his agility to take a short pass seven yards for the first down to get out of the shadow of his own end zone. On the next play, Roethlisberger faked a handoff to Jones, who was pummeled by two defenders, and scrambled for six yards. Jones got the first down on the next carry. Two plays later, Adam Jones was flagged for pass interference.
Jonathan Dwyer, on his first play back with the team, gained two yards on the ensuing play. On the next play, Roethlisberger found David Paulson down the field, who got a number of yards after the catch. He had the ball stripped from him at the end of the play, however, and the Steelers delayed running a play afterward, giving the Bengals time to see the review and challenge the play. It was a coaching error to try to change personnel rather than run a play, which resulted in the turnover.
The Steelers did manage to flip the field, however, moving the ball 86 yards in total down to the 13. Vince Williams made his debut, registering the tackle on first down after a five-yard gain. Giovani Bernard cut back a run on second down to get the first play. Busted coverage resulted in Tyler Eifert getting wide open down the middle of the field for a monster gain down to the 13. Two plays later, the run defense disappointed, allowing a seven-yard touchdown from Bernard with Al Woods at nose tackle.
The Steelers’ ensuing drive stalled immediately, due in large part to a sharp pass that Jerricho Cotchery was unable to hold on to on second and seven, resulting in the third of four drives in which the Steelers failed to register a first down. The punt was returned to the 42-yard line.
The Bengals were flagged for a false start to set up first and 15. A screen pass gained 14 yards, however, as Ryan Clark was blocked out of the play. Green-Ellis got plenty more than the one yard needed for the first as Vince Williams was eluded on the play. Marvin Jones slipped through an Ike Taylor tackle attempt to get to the 24. Steve McLendon supplied the pressure on the next play on an incomplete pass that bounced off of Green. Heyward deflected the second down pass to set up third and 10. Pressure on third down forced Dalton to heave up a pass that fell harmlessly incomplete, but a field goal gave the Bengals a 10-3 lead.
Isaac Redman was cleared to return to the game after being knocked around on the opening kickoff, which required him to pass concussion tests. He was in blocking on the next play, which was an incomplete pass down the field. Redman carried the ball for one yard on second down. On third down, a four-wide set pass fell incomplete for the three and out. Shamarko Thomas just missed the tackle on the punt, but he was blocked in the back on the play anyway.
Jarvis Jones made a nice play to drop the back for a loss of a yard on first down. Dalton targeted him in coverage on the next play, and he made the stop a few yards shy of the first down. With four wide on third down, Mohamed Sanu got the better of Thomas for the first down.
Polamalu broke up a pass in the backfield on the next play, and the second down pass gained hardly a foot after Dalton was under pressure. Sanu got some separation from Thomas on third down, but the downfield pass was just out of his reach with Ryan Clark looming as well.
Emmanuel Sanders caught Roethlisberger’s first completion in a while for a nine-yard gain, and Jones gained a first down on the next play. Antonio Brown converted another first down two plays later. Cotchery was dropped for a loss on a run, however, setting up third and 13. The pass fell harmlessly incomplete beyond Cotchery, and Jarvis Jones forced a fair catch on the ensuing punt.
After two short passes gained just two yards, Roethlisberger was able to find Sanders down the field into Bengals territory. On the very next play, the two hooked up again for a bunch of yards after the catch to set up first and goal at the one-yard line. On the first play, Roethlisberger threw a fade route to Derek Moye, the 6’5” fifth wide receiver, who hauled in the pas for the touchdown to tie the game at 10.
The Bengals, now in the two-minute offense, took their time early on, knowing that they still had three timeouts, and drained about a minute on the first three plays. From the 40, Cameron Heyward hit Dalton as he threw to force the incomplete pass. A seven-yard gain to Green set up third and three, but Dalton was able to convert to Tyler Eifert.
Two incomplete passes put the Bengals right back in third down, however, with 11 seconds remaining from the 48. Green-Ellis caught the pass, but shy of the first down. With five seconds to play, the Bengals went for a Hail Mary into the end zone. Sanu nearly hauled in the pass, by Ike Taylor was able to deflect the ball away to maintain the tie score.