Report Card: Steelers earn a D against the Bengals
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It was the second game in a row in which Ben Roethlisberger's final pass was intercepted and resulted in the winning field goal. This one, though, was no surprise. Roethlisberger played his worst game of the year, beginning with the interception return for touchdown on his third attempt of the game. He was sacked four times, looked indecisive and converted 2 of 14 third-down chances. The only bright spot was a 60-yard TD pass at the end of the first half.
The Steelers did not have the same production on the ground that they had in the first meeting, but it wasn't from not trying. They ran 31 times, just three carries shy of their total from the previous two games combined, and finished with 85 yards. Rashard Mendenhall gave a lift with 50 yards on 11 carries, including a 20-yard run on his second carry. And Isaac Redman had a great second effort to convert a fourth-and-1 at midfield. But that was about it.
The only significant play was made by Antonio Brown, who beat CB Adam Jones with a double move to catch a 60-yard TD pass to cut the lead to 10-7. Brown finished with five catches for 97 yards. Otherwise, the longest catch was a 22-yarder to TE Heath Miller to start a field-goal drive in the third quarter. The Bengals so smothered the receivers that Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders each had just one catch, though both were on the field-goal drive.
Roethlisberger was sacked four times and under plenty of pressure from a defense that leads the NFL in sacks. Guards David DeCastro and Ramon Foster had problems handling DT Geno Atkins, who was credited with 2 1/2 sacks and also forced a fumble. But three of the sacks came in the second half, none worse than when Atkins pushed Foster into Roethlisberger on third down from the Bengals 29, pushing the Steelers out of field-goal range.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the first Bengals back in 44 years to have four 100-yard games in the past five outings, but he was held to 14 yards on 15 carries, including just 7 yards on 10 carries in the first half. What's more, he had six runs of zero or negative yards. The Bengals had trouble handling NT Casey Hampton, who had a big stop for minus-5 yards on second-and-1. DE Brett Keisel was superb again, getting 1 1/2 of the six sacks on Andy Dalton.
Lawrence Timmons was all over the field, especially in the first half, and finished with 10 tackles and two sacks. He was also part of a rush defense that never allowed a run longer than 4 yards. Bengals QB Andy Dalton passed for 278 yards, but he rarely threw underneath the coverage against the linebackers. James Harrison had one sack and Larry Foote added seven tackles.
The defense created a season-high three turnovers, and CB Cortez Allen had a hand in all of them -- intercepting two passes and forcing a fumble. But he was active all day because Dalton kept attacking the cornerbacks with A.J. Green, who had 10 catches for 116 yards. With Ike Taylor out and Keenan Lewis effectively playing on one leg, Dalton completed five passes of 20 yards or longer, including the 21-yarder to Green that set up the winning field goal.
It was the wrong time for Shaun Suisham to finally look human. After missing just one of 27 field-goal attempts all season, he missed two against the Bengals, including a 24-yarder in the second quarter. The other was a 53-yarder with 1:47 remaining that could have won the game. The coverage units got a break when Adam Jones' 62-yard punt return to the Steelers 13 was negated by a holding penalty. Otherwise, they held the Bengals to minus-2 return yards.
Dick LeBeau's defense deserved a better fate after getting six sacks and three turnovers and not allowing the Bengals an offensive touchdown. But the offense looked totally confused against Mike Zimmer's defensive schemes. The reality is, this team was done after last week's overtime loss in Dallas.
First Published December 24, 2012 12:00 am