Woe and two: Steelers' stumbles and fumbles lead to second loss

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CINCINNATI -- The Steelers have tripped over the opening of their season like nothing they have done in more than a decade, since the last days of Kordell Stewart as their starting quarterback.

Cincinnati's rare 20-10 victory over their listless AFC North rivals Monday night dropped the Steelers to 0-2 for the first time under Mike Tomlin or Ben Roethlisberger and a tie for last place with Cleveland in the division.

They last opened with consecutive losses in 2002. It also was only the second time the Bengals (1-1) have beaten the Steelers at home in the past 13 games between the teams.

Again, the toothless Steelers defense produced no turnovers, continuing a trend that began in 2011 and continued when they came up with zero in their opener. They also did not have a sack Monday and have just one in two games.

That wasn't the case for the Bengals. They produced two key turnovers and also sacked Roethlisberger twice.

Cincinnati sealed the deal when, on third-and-2 at the Bengals 27, Roethlisberger threw high to Jerricho Cotchery. The receiver got enough of a hand on the ball to tip it into the air, but safety Reggie Nelson came down with it for the interception with 4:55 left.

It's the kind of play the Steelers have not been able to make on defense.

The other Steelers turnover came in the first quarter after David Paulson caught a 34-yard pass to the Bengals 16, but then fumbled it away.

Roethlisberger completed 20 of 37 passes for 251 yards with that one interception and a 1-yard touchdown pass to Derek Moye.

Felix Jones led the Steelers with 37 yards rushing on 10 carries.

Their running game went nowhere for the second game in a row with 44 yards on 16 tries.

Yet they were somehow tied, 10-10, at halftime until the Bengals scored a touchdown in the third quarter and used a time-consuming, field-goal drive in the fourth quarter for a 20-10 lead with 7:51 to go.

Rookie halfback Giovani Bernard scored his second touchdown of the game as the Bengals reclaimed the lead, 17-10, after three quarters.

Then, quarterback Andy Dalton guided them on a 14-play, 57-yard fourth-quarter drive that ate up nearly seven minutes. Mike Nugent kicked his second field goal of the night, from 25 yards, to put the Bengals up by 10.

Dalton completed 25 of 45 passes for 280 yards.

Earlier in that second half, the Steelers missed another chance to score when Roethlisberger completed a third-down pass to Antonio Brown for 33 yards to the Bengals 30.

Tackle Marcus Gilbert, however, was penalized for tripping on the play.

Instead of putting them in scoring range, they were back on the their 27 and facing a third-and-20.

Roethlisberger was sacked on the next play for an 11-yard loss, and they punted.

And Cincinnati scored a touchdown to break into a 17-10 lead. Dalton found yet another tight end, this time veteran Jermaine Gresham for 26 yards to kick-start a 78-yard drive.

It ended when Bernard took a short pass over the middle from Dalton and juked his way 27 yards without a hand laid on him for his second touchdown of the night.

Roethlisberger took his struggling Steelers offense 65 yards for a touchdown late in the first half to forge a 10-10 tie at halftime and breathe life into the visitors.

Roethlisberger, who had just completed two consecutive 1-yard passes, hit Emmanuel Sanders for two consecutive completions of 19 and 43 yards to put the ball on the Bengals 1.

From there, Roethlisberger threw a fade pass that the 6-foor-5 Moye caught in the right corner of the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown to tie it with 1:54 left in the half.

The Bengals had increased their lead to 10-3 early in the second quarter when Nugent kicked a 41-yard field goal.

Halfback Isaac Redman, who was examined for a possible concussion after the opening kickoff, was cleared to play in the second quarter and did so.

Another Steelers turnover changed the complexion of the game in the early going as Cincinnati grabbed a 7-3 lead after the first quarter of play.

The Steelers had their best drive of the season going, but an old bugaboo foiled them again, the fumble, just as it did on the opening drive in their first game when a handoff exchange blew up inside the 5.

Starting from their 3, the Steelers moved to the Cincinnati 16 after Paulson caught a 34-yard pass from Roethlisberger. Bengals cornerback Adam Jones, however, stripped Paulson of the ball as he was being tackled and then recovered at the Cincinnati 16.

Officials originally ruled Paulson was down, but Bengals coach Marvin Lewis dropped the challenge flag, and the call was overturned by replay.

It did not take long for the Bengals to make them pay in a big way.

From the 26 after a first down, rookie tight end Tyler Eifert broke free in the middle of the field with no one covering him. Dalton hit him in stride near midfield and Eifert completed the 61-yard play to the 13.

Two plays later, Bernard ran up the middle for a 7-yard touchdown and a 7-3 Bengals lead.

Antonio Brown returned the game's first punt 40 yards to the Cincinnati 34, which led to Shaun Suisham's 44-yard field goal and a 3-0 Steelers lead with 10:42 left in the opening quarter.

There was still some work to do after Brown's return, however, because Roethlisberger was sacked for a 6-yard loss to the 40.

On third down from there, Felix Jones ran a draw up the middle to gain 14 yards and put the Steelers in field-goal range.

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For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published September 17, 2013 5:30 AM


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