Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward steps along the sideline as he's defended by Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga in the fourth quarter.
By Gerry Dulac Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Game Ball: To K Jeff Reed
In a game where neither offense managed a touchdown, it was Reed who kept the Steelers involved to the end with four field goals -- his most since he had four on Nov. 30, 2008 in New England. It was the fourth time in his career Reed has kicked four field goals in a game. His career best is six against Jacksonville in 2002. The Steelers failed to score a touchdown on four trips inside the Bengals 20, forcing them to settle for field goals from Reed of 28, 33, 35 and 34 yards. Since missing two field goals in the fourth quarter in Chicago, Reed has converted 11 of his past 12 field-goal attempts.
Xs and Os
Needing a touchdown to win, the Steelers began their final drive at their 33 with 1:50 remaining -- a situation in which Ben Roethlisberger has usually excelled. But, instead of picking his way downfield, Roethlisberger misfired on deep passes on second and third down and the drive ended with four consecutive incompletions. "We were just trying to get the ball down the field deeper because we needed chunks," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "We didn't protect very well. We had to go a long way. We couldn't nickel-and-dime our way down there with that amount of time."
1.Bernard Scott's 96-yard kickoff return. It is becoming an every-game occurrence for the Steelers, who are giving up touchdown returns the way some teams give up first downs. Scott's touchdown, which came after the Steelers had taken a 3-0 lead, was the third in the past four games allowed by the Steelers. Maybe even more disturbing is that only one player had a real shot at Scott, and that was LB Keyaron Fox. Coach Mike Tomlin even thought he saw another player miss a tackle on the play. "You can't miss two tackles on a kickoff in the NFL."
2. James Harrison's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The NFL's defensive player of the year cannot be excused for punching LT Andrew Whitworth in the head after a play because it gave the Bengals 15 extra yards on their field-goal drive that made it 18-12.
3. Farrior versus Leonard II. It's not the same as Duran-Leonard, but Bengals FB Brian Leonard made another big third-down catch on James Farrior, this time beating him in man coverage for a 17-yard gain to the Steelers 43 that led to the go-ahead field goal.
4. Bad bounce or bad throw? Ben Roethlisberger's only interception was deflected by nickel back Morgan Trent and returned 26 yards by DE Frostee Rucker to set up a field goal that tied the game at 9-all. But the pass never had a chance because it was thrown behind Hines Ward.
5. Oh boy, Troy. It was another highlight play by Polamalu, who stopped Bengals RB Cedric Benson for a 3-yard loss in the first quarter. But the play was significant because that appears to be the moment when Polamalu re-injured the lefyt knee that caused him to miss four games this season.
Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis on the game: "That's a grinding football game, probably the most physical, grinding football game I've ever been on the sidelines to experience. I thought our guys did a great job of hanging in there and grinding blow for blow, back and forth."
The Steelers (6-3) play in Kansas City at 1 p.m. Sunday against the Chiefs, who are coming off a 16-10 win against the Oakland Raiders. This will be the eighth time in the past nine regular-season meetings the Steelers have played in Kansas City, though it's the first since 2003.
Inside the Numbers: 7
That's the number of games in a row in which the Steelers have allowed a scoring return for touchdown, the latest being Bernard Scott's 96-yard kick return in the first quarter. The breakdown on the scoring returns is this: Three kickoff returns, three fumble returns and one interception return.
What Was He Thinking
The Bengals didn't seem to need any help grinding out yards on their final field-goal drive, but they gained 15 yards to their own 49 when Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after he punched left tackle Andrew Whitworth in the helmet. Whitworth pushed Harrison in the back after a 2-yard gain by RB Bernard Scott, prompting Harrison to retaliate with a punch. "He pushed me in the back so I turned around and hit him in his head," Harrison said. Asked if he knew that would result in a 15-yard penalty, Harrison said, "I didn't care nothing about that at the time."