Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looks to pass against the Bengals at Heinz Field.
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ben Roethlisberger got off to a fast start and fought a tough wind to complete 20 of 25 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown. He completed his first seven passes for 60 yards and a touchdown to help the Steelers to a 14-0 lead. Then he completed five more in a row and 14 of his first 16 for 119 yards to help the Steelers to their biggest first-half output of the season. It didn't even matter that he didn't convert a third down until the fourth after going 0-for-5.
Le'Veon Bell was a workhorse again, getting 29 touches for 107 yards and a touchdown. He had 57 yards rushing on 24 carries and five catches for 50 yards. Bell, though, converted a fourth-and-4 in the first quarter with a 16-yard catch-and-run, leading to the first touchdown. Felix Jones and Jonathan Dwyer combined for 37 yards on seven carries on the final first-half drive that resulted in a field goal.
Antonio Brown made two of the biggest plays in the first half, catching a 12-yard touchdown for a 14-0 lead and also returning a punt for a touchdown. Brown had three of his five catches for 35 yards in the first half. Heath Miller added four catches for 35 yards, and Emmanuel Sanders made a nice spin move to convert a big third-and-7 in the fourth that allowed the Steelers to run more clock.
The line came off the ball in the first half as well as they have all year, allowing the Steelers to rush for 63 yards on 18 carries against a defense that ranked fifth in the league against the run. What's more, Roethlisberger was not sacked in the first half and had time to throw against a defensive line that had accounted for 20½ of the Bengals' 36 sacks. Give credit to TEs Matt Spaeth and Heath Miller for good in-line blocking.
The Steelers did a good job containing the two-headed running attack of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard, especially in the first half when they managed just 34 yards on 16 carries. Their longest run was 9 yards. Nose tackle Al Woods, filling in for injured Steve McLendon, had a batted pass and a third-down goal-line stop. DE Ziggy Hood got the only sack in the first half, his third of the season, and recovered a fumble that led to a field goal.
The Steelers registered just one sack -- none by the linebackers -- but they managed to get enough pressure on QB Andy Dalton that he completed just 7 of 17 passes in the first half and 25 of 44 overall. ILB Vince Williams had a big stop on Green-Ellis on third-and-1 that forced the muffed punt. Jarvis Jones was active in run defense, replacing injured LaMarr Woodley, and batted a key two-point conversion pass.
The Bengals came into the game tied for the most pass plays of 40+ yards in the AFC (13), but the defense didn't allow a completion longer than 19 yards. CB Ike Taylor did not follow Bengals receiver A.J. Green as he usually does, but he had a pair of pass breakups in the first half. Taylor, though, got caught out of position on a 13-yard TD to Marvin Jones. S Troy Polamalu forced another fumble with a strip tackle
Finally, big plays were the difference, helping the Steelers to a 21-0 lead. The biggest was Brown's 67-yard punt return for touchdown, his first of the season. The other was a muffed snap by Bengals P Kevin Huber that gave the Steelers possession at the Cincinnati 1, leading to the first touchdown. However, the Steelers allowed kick returns of 52 and 36 yards that set up the first two Bengals' touchdowns. Shaun Suisham was perfect on three field goals.
Where was this kind of performance in Oakland or London? Any signs of lethargy were dispelled quickly when the Steelers put together their biggest quarter of the year, building a 21-0 lead in the first and a 27-7 lead at halftime. Dick LeBeau's defense, which had been bleeding big plays, did not allow a play longer than 19 yards. And the offense continued to be diverse and productive, scoring 27 or more points for the fourth time in seven games.
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