CINCINNATI (KDKA/AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers were looking to shake off a last-second loss to the Baltimore Ravens last weekend as they headed into Cincinnati Sunday afternoon for a showdown with the Bengals.
It was a game of possible playoff implications as the Bengals (6-3) and the Steelers (7-3) met for the first time this season. They’ll play again Dec. 4 at Heinz Field.
While the Bengals rallied and tied up the game in the third quarter after falling behind the early, the Steelers never trailed and managed to hang on for a 24-17 victory.
Rashard Mendenhall ran for a pair of touchdowns in the win, and the Steelers – who came into the game with only two interceptions all season – intercepted rookie quarterback Andy Dalton twice in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Cornerback William Gay anticipated Dalton’s throw and stepped in front of Jerome Simpson for the clinching interception inside the Pittsburgh 20-yard line with 2:27 left to play.
After the game, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin talked about pulling out the win and heading into the bye week.
“I’ll take it; I wouldn’t necessarily say I was pleased – I’d be pleased if we were 10-0 but we’re not – we are what we are,” said Tomlin. “I haven’t ran across a bye that I didn’t like. I always get that question, that’s really funny to me – you know, you get it when you get it.”
Dalton handled most of what Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau threw at him. He had two more touchdown passes, giving him 14 overall — the most by a rookie quarterback in his first nine games since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
But in the end, a Steelers defense that’s finally getting healthy and forcing turnovers got to him.
Dalton was 15 of 30 for 170 yards and touchdown passes of 36 yards to fellow rookie A.J. Green and 1 yard to Jermaine Gresham.
Meanwhile, even though they lost to the Steelers, Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis said he felt as if his team measured up.
“We got work to do and we’re going to be in the same position regardless – we’d like to have had the win, we didn’t get it and we’ve got to go to work – but I don’t think this team needs to worry about now whether they can play with the so-called elite of the AFC cause they can and will,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh got a needed win by putting together long, balanced drives while thousands of Steelers fans waved Terrible Towels in the first sellout crowd of the season at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals received the ball to start the game and took over on their own 20 yard line, but went nowhere as the Steelers defense forced a quick three-and-out.
Pittsburgh began their first possession of the game on their own 46 yard line.
Facing a 3rd-and-10 from the Cincy 16 yard line, Ben Roethlisberger got flushed out of the pocket and found Jerricho Cotchery wide open in the endzone to put the Steelers up 7-0. The touchdown capped an eight-play, 54-yard drive.
Roethlisberger was 21 of 33 for 245 yards with one touchdown and an interception. He was sacked five times, matching his season high.
After forcing another three-and-out, the Steelers marched down the field and added to their lead.
The drive was in danger of stalling out at the Bengals’ 20 yard line, but Roethlisberger found Heath Miller for a 15-yard pass to move the chains. On the next play, Mendenhall broke a tackle and dove into the endzone to put Pittsburgh up 14-0.
The Bengals finally moved the ball on their third possession of the opening quarter and cut the lead in half.
Dalton went deep downfield and found A.J. Green for a 36-yard touchdown into double-coverage with 14 seconds to play in the first quarter. The Bengals’ scoring drive covered 79 yards in just seven plays.
On the Steelers next drive, Miller bobbled a pass from Roethlisberger and saw it fall into the arms of Cincinnati’s Leon Hall.
However, the Steelers defense came up with a big stop to force the Bengals to settle for a 43-yard field goal by Mike Nugent to cut the lead to 14-10.
After trading possessions without putting points on the board, the Steelers orchestrated a 16-play, 67-yard drive which ended in a 39-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham to give Pittsburgh a 17-10 lead.
Pittsburgh would take that lead into halftime and got the ball back to open the second half. However, they were forced to punt it away after just three plays.
Cincinnati wasted no time tying the game either. Dalton hooked up with Jermain Gresham for a 1-yard touchdown pass to cap off an 11-play, 67-yard drive with 8:38 to play in the third quarter.
But on the ensuing drive, the Steelers regained the lead.
Mendenhall broke a tackle on a run up the middle and stretched for the goal line to put Pittsburgh up 24-17. The 9-yard touchdown run capped an 11-play, 81-yard drive.
Next week, the Steelers have a bye week. After that, they will head to Kansas City for a game against the Chiefs at 8:20 p.m. on Nov. 27.
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