Playing on a much better field than the week before in the Steel City, the Steelers accomplished two very important tasks in their 24-10 win Sunday night over the Bengals. For one, they basically eliminated the Bengals from any hopes of making the postseason, and they also helped themselves as they increased their lead in the AFC North to two games over the Browns with just four to play.
It didn’t start out all that well for the Steelers, as they allowed the Bengals to march right down the field on their opening drive and punch it in for a quick 7-0 Bengals lead. Rudi Johnson finished the near perfect drive with a one-yard run. The Steelers could not get much going on the offensive side of the ball, as Ben Roethlisberger and this teammates could not seem to get in stride. The Steelers first three possessions ended with a pick and two punts. The team had just 10 plays on offense in the first quarter.
But as poorly as they were playing in the first quarter, the second quarter was just the opposite. The team put together a solid 11-play, 67-yard drive that saw Roethlisberger complete two passes each to Hines Ward and Heath Miller on the drive to the end zone. Big Ben went in from 6 yards out to cap the drive to tie the game at 7. The Bengals suddenly became the Bungles, as they fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Steelers recovered. Jeff Reed converted that into a 21-yard field goal to put the Steelers ahead for the first time to make it 10-7. After the next Bengals drive stalled, the Steelers wrapped up a great quarter of football with a 12-play, 66-yard drive that ended with Roethlisberger hitting Ward with a 2-yard score with :10 left in the half to make it 17-7.
The Bengals recovered a Willie Parker fumble and got a field goal midway through the third quarter to cut the Steelers lead to 17-10, but that is as close as they would get. The Steelers came back off that drive with another solid drive of their own, going 61 yards on 10 plays as Ben hit Ward again with an 8-yard score to close out the scoring at 24-10. Cincy had one last gasp midway through the fourth as they got to the Steelers three-yard line, but on fourth down Carson Palmer’s pas was knocked away in the end zone, finishing off the Steelers first sweep of Cincy since 2004.
Roethlisberger was 21-for-32 for 184 yards with two TD’s and two interceptions. Parker ran 28 times for 87 yards, and Hines Ward caught 11 balls for 90 yards and two scores. The Steelers defense did a solid job after the Bengals first score, and after that opening drive they held the Bengals to 174 yards of offense on the night. Palmer was 17-of-44 for 183 yards. Rudi Johnson led the Bengals ground game with 14 rushes for 34 yards and a score.
The Steelers have their toughest task of the season up next, as they travel to New England to take on the Pats next Sunday at 4:15. The Bengals will be back at Paul Brown Stadium as they take on the St.Louis Rams Sunday at 1pm.