The Pittsburgh Steelers improved their record to 9-3 today with a 35-7 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field. The Steelers received many great contributions but none more so impressive than on special teams. The special teams unit helped with a key field goal block, causing a key turnover during kickoff coverage and Antonio Brown's 60 yard punt return for a touchdown. Special teams was they key to the Steelers coming up big against the Bengals in a pivotal AFC North matchup.
On a day when the offense and defense didn't begin the game on right foot, it was Cameron Heyward who made a great play in blocking an early first quarter field goal attempt. The attempt was set up by a huge pass play on the first drive of the game from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green across the middle of the Steelers coverage. Despite the early momentum gained by the Bengals offense it was taken right back as Heyward made a tremendous play fighting off two blockers and reaching out his big hand to deflect the football.
That slow offensive start saw the Steelers miss on the first two drives, but once they got ball back following that key field goal block the offense then exploded. Ben Roethlisberger was 15 of 23 for 176 yards and two touchdowns and the leading receivers for the Steelers were Antonio Brown who had two catches for 67 yards and Mike Wallace who caught three passes for 38 yards and two touchdowns.
Offensively the Steelers were able to get the running game established as both Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman made solid contributions as well. Mendenhall finished with 60 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown, while Redman had 51 yards on eight carries.
Defensively the Steelers were able to keep Andy Dalton and A.J. Green honest. They held Dalton to 135 yards and one touchdown on 11 of 24 attempts while holding Green to six catches on 87 yards and a touchdown. Green was the only player on the Bengals who really made an impact. Unlike the first meeting with the Bengals where the defense was unable to get to Dalton, they were able to sack him three times and knock him to the ground a good bit as well.
The difference though in the game was the Steelers special teams play as they inspired the rest of the team, when both the starting offensive and defensive units weren't able to start they way they had wanted. There was a key strip by Stephenson Sylvester on the ensuing kickoff following that Mendenhall touchdown drive, and of course Browns amazing kick return for the touchdown.
With the win the Steelers are now 9-3 and will have to rest up quickly as the next game is on Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns. For now the Steelers are atop the AFC North and hoping for the Browns to pull an upset of the Baltimore Ravens later today.
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