The Pittsburgh Steelers went into Sunday night without a road victory since 2011. That all changed against Cincinnati Bengals as the returned to Steelers football on their way to a 24-17 victory in a must-win AFC North game.
More importantly, the defense decided to show up and play in the second half, allowing only three points, and forcing the Bengals to five consecutive three-and-outs down the stretch. Like Dwyer on offense, cornerback Keenan Lewis may have had his best game as a Steeler, dominating his man and allowing the team to swing coverage toward A.J. Green.
The Steelers opened the game with a tremendous kick return from rookie Chris Rainey and did not let it go to waste. While they did not punch in a touchdown, they were able to manufacture three-points after a critical Mike Wallace drop on third down. Shaun Suisham capped the drive with a 42-yard field goal.
The Bengals came right back and took the lead 7-3 on a 15-play 80-yard drive. The balanced march was a solid mix of run and pass was capped by a Cedric Peerman five-yard run. After a Ben Roethlisberger fumble set up the Bengals at the nine-yard line, they wasted little time extending the lead to 14-3. To cap the one-play drive quarterback Andy Dalton hit receiver A.J. Green on a slant burning cornerback Ike Taylor for the score. This was the second consecutive drive for the Steelers that ended in turnover as Roethlisberger was picked off in the end zone on the previous drive.
The Steelers finally got back on the scoreboard with another Suisham field goal. This time it was a 47-yard attempt, which capped a 10-play 60-yard drive that made the score 14-6 with three minutes remaining in the first half. On the drive, Wallace again dropped a pass in the end zone (albeit it was tipped). After the kick-off, the Steelers defense finally came up with a turnover and set the offense up near the Red Zone and the offense finally made them pay. After a couple tough first-downs, Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller for a nine-yard touchdown and two point conversion to make the score 14-14 just before the half.
The Bengals took the opening kick off and drove 32-yards on seven plays to take the lead back from the Steelers. The drive was capped by a Mike Nugent 48-yard field goal to make the score 17-14 early in the second half of action.
The Steelers bounced right back with a solid drive of their own. This six-play 37-yard drive ended in another Suisham field goal, this one from 42-yards to tie the score at 17 midway through the third quarter. After a three-and-out by the Bengals, the offense finally seemed to get into a rhythm. After a 31-yard play on a key third down, the Steelers put the ball into the end zone for a second time. The score came on a Rainey 11-yard run to cap the eight-play 67-yard drive to break the tie, making it 24-17 Pittsburgh early in the fourth quarter.
On offense, Roethlisberger had another solid outing, completing 27-of-37 for 278 yards one touchdown and one interception. Most importantly, he starred on third down, completing some important throws to keep drives alive. Antonio Brown (seven receptions for 96 yards) and Heath Miller (six receptions 53 yards and one touchdown) sparked the receiving corps.
One troubling trend that started early in the contest is the inability of Wallace to hold onto the ball at critical times, dropping four balls that would have been easy first downs or touchdowns. While he did finish with a team-high eight receptions, he could have salted this game away on multiple occasions. For a player that held out of training camp for more money, he cannot have those moments with suspect hands, especially when the defense is struggling the way this Steelers unit is.
On the injury front, safety Will Allen was replaced by Ryan Mundy after injuring his ankle in the second half.
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