The Bengals all season long have waited to take on one of the big boys in the AFC North.
Sunday, they got their shot, and in the end they failed to do enough to walk out with a win.
Andy Dalton threw two fourth quarter picks, and the Steelers took a 14-0 and eventually scored to break a 17-17 tie to top the Bengals 24-17 at Paul Brown Stadium. The loss for the Cats breaks their AFC high five-game win streak, as they fall to 6-3.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times but was 20 of 32 for 238 yards and a touchdown. Rashard Mendenhall was held to 44 yards but had two touchdowns, including the game winner.
Dalton ended the day 15 of 30 for 170 yards with two touchdowns and two fourth-quarter interceptions. Rookie quarterbacks are now 1-12 when facing Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau for the first time, and Sunday Dalton was another number in that stat.
Mike Wallace caught six passes for 54 yards and carried the ball two times for 31 yards for the victors.
“Good bounce back for us in many ways,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. “Probably more than anything the sufficient plays from the defense particularly down the stretch to preserve the win in light of how we finished the game last week. We are excited about that.”
With the score tied at 17-17 midway through the third quarter, the Steelers put together an 11-play, 81-yard scoring drive. Jerricho Cotchery got the march going with a 13-yard catch. Antonio Brown caught a 12-yard pass a few plays later to put the ball at the Cincinnati 40. Isaac Redman followed with an 11-yard run before Wallace added a 12-yard catch to put the ball at the nine. Mendenhall then broke through a leg tackle and rumbled into the end zone for a 24-17 lead with 1:55 to go.
Lawrence Timmons picked off Dalton early in the fourth. The Steelers took over at their own 33, but were forced to punt.
After two more punts, the Bengals took over near midfield with 4:28 left. Cincinnati used the ground game to get to the 25, but William Gay came up with a huge interception.
“The guy made a great play and jumped the route,” Dalton said. “My eyes were on the flat defender and when I let go of it he jumped it. He made a great play.”
The Steelers kept the ball for the final 2:27 for the victory.
The Steelers jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead. A 38-yard punt by the Bengals set up Pittsburgh at its own 46. Wallace caught two short passes before running 15 yards to the 16. Three plays later, Roethlisberger rolled to his right and found Cotchery in the end zone for a 16-yard score.
Another three-and-out by Cincinnati was followed by a second Pittsburgh touchdown. Mendenhall caught a 26-yard pass before Wallace broke a run for 16 yards to move the ball to the Bengals’ 33. Faced with a 3rd-and-10 from the 20, Heath Miller caught an 18-yard pass. Mendenhall then rumbled into the end zone from two yards out for a 14-0 margin with 3:37 left in the first quarter.
The Bengals finally woke up on offense during their next drive. Andrew Hawkins caught a 25-yard pass on third down to keep the march alive. A few players later, Dalton threw a jump ball into the end zone for his rookie wide receiver. A.J. Green managed to catch the ball for a 36-yard score despite being double covered. The rookie hurt his right leg on the catch.
Cincinnati’s defense followed with a big play. On the second play of the second quarter, Miller bobbled a pass from Roethlisberger and Leon Hall took the ball away from the tight end for the interception. The Bengals got a 43- yard field goal from Mike Nugent to cut the gap to 14-10.
The Steelers almost had another touchdown before the half. Roethlisberger threw what seemed to be a 24-yard TD pass to Cotchery, but Miller was called for offensive pass interference. Brown caught a 21-yard pass on the next play to move the ball to the 13. Pittsburgh had to settle for a Shaun Suisham 39- yard field goal and 17-10 lead at the break.
The Bengals tied the game early in the third period with an 11-play, 67-yard drive. Faced with a 3rd-and-10 near midfield, Andre Caldwell caught an 11-yard pass. Colin Cochart then caught a 25-yard pass to put the ball at the 10. A seven-yard catch by Caldwell combined with a personal foul penalty on the Steelers put the ball at the one. Dalton found Jermaine Gresham in the left corner of the end zone to make it 17-17 with 8 1/2 minutes remaining.