On the Steelers: Fourth-quarter interception holds off Bengals
William Gay celebrates with Brett Keisel and Chris Carter after intercepting a pass against the Bengals in the fourth quarter Sunday in Cincinnati.
Mike Wallace picks up first down against the Bengals Sunday in Cincinnati.
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CINCINNATI -- Cornerback William Gay, the perceived victim of Baltimore's comeback victory the previous week in Heinz Field, did not let on that his play against the Cincinnati Bengals served as any kind of personal redemption.
That was left up to teammates after Gay had a hand in two fourth-quarter interceptions to help stave off a Bengals comeback and preserve the Steelers 24-17 victory Sunday.
"Good day by Willie Gay!" linebacker James Farrior chimed. "And that's all I got to say!"
Gay had little to say himself other than he was happy the Steelers hit the off week at 7-3.
They all were a little happier heading into their off week because their victory, combined with Baltimore's loss in Seattle, put the Steelers back in first place in the AFC North Division, half a game ahead of the Bengals and Ravens, who are tied at 6-3.
One week can make a big difference in the NFL.
Gay let his actions speak for him and they fairly shouted. After turning a 14-0 first-quarter deficit into a 17-17 tie, the Bengals twice moved past the 50 in the fourth quarter and twice Gay thwarted their attempts to tie the score.
He leaped over receiver Andre Caldwell to tip an Andy Dalton pass into the air that linebacker Lawrence Timmons then intercepted at the Steelers 33. And then, with the Bengals driving at the Steelers 25, where they had a second down with 2:33 to go, Gay shot forward and picked off another Dalton pass that was intended for Jerome Simpson.
"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."
"I think our guys played well, stayed with it and made their best plays with the game on the line," Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said.
It came one week after the Steelers defense allowed the Ravens to drive 92 yards for the winning touchdown, a 26-yard pass to Torrey Smith with eight seconds left, seemingly over Gay. Safety Ryan Clark later took the blame for misreading the play, but nevertheless Gay became everyone's target for the loss.
"He took a lot of abuse last week," Farrior said. "He made some good plays today, caused two turnovers. ... Is that the first game we got more than one turnover?"
Indeed it was in 2011, and the Steelers needed both to dispatch the surprising and tenacious Bengals.
The Steelers managed just two interceptions through their first nine games and three quarters of this one, then swiped two in the fourth quarter.
They ran out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter but the Bengals came back to tie it, 17-17, on Dalton's 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jermaine Gresham in the third quarter.
The Steelers responded quickly, using the no-huddle offense to drive 81 yards and reclaim the lead on Rashard Mendenhall's second touchdown run of the afternoon, a tackle-breaking 9-yarder.
It was their first touchdown since they scored two rapidly on their first two drives of the game. Roethlisberger threw a 16-yard pass to Jerricho Cotchery to make it 7-0 and it became 14-0 when Mendenhall completed another long drive with a 2-yard run.
The Bengals, though, scored before the first period ended when the rookie combination of Dalton to receiver A.J. Green connected on a 36-yard touchdown pass over Troy Polamalu, who was in perfect position, saw the ball ... and did nothing.
"I just wasn't aggressive going after the ball," Polamalu said.
A bobbled pass by tight end Heath Miller was intercepted by cornerback Leon Hall, leading to the Bengals' second score, a 43-yard field goal by Mike Nugent that cut the Steelers lead to 14-10.
Shaun Suisham put the Steelers back on top by seven with a 39-yard field goal. On that drive receiver Antonio Brown caught four passes for 74 yards. He finished the game with five catches for 86 yards.
A Miller holding penalty negated what would have been another touchdown pass to Cotchery, who pulled in a 24-yard pass from a scrambling Roethlisberger.
Dalton, though, showed some poise on a drive in the middle of the third quarter and threw the tying touchdown pass to Gresham.
Dalton finished 15 of 30 passing for 170 yards and two touchdowns, but also had those two interceptions. However, he was not sacked while the Bengals got to Roethlisberger five times bulging his total to 31.
But in the end, Dalton was done in by a guy who took a beating himself all of last week but apparently never let on.
"He knows," Farrior said of Gay, "he has a lot of people behind him in this locker room."
It was the Steelers 10th victory in their past 11 games at Paul Brown Stadium.
First Published November 14, 2011 12:00 am