POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 09, 2010
CINCINNATI » At the end of a night full of foibles, tricks and missed chances, the Pittsburgh Steelers turned to their one constant to finish it off.
That unyielding defense came through again.
James Harrison and Ryan Clark stripped the ball away from Jordan Shipley near the 5-yard line on Cincinnati's final play, preserving a 27-21 victory over the Bengals last night that left the AFC North with an old, familiar look.
The Steelers (6-2) are again at the top, sharing the spot with Baltimore. The defending-champion Bengals (2-6) are in last place alone after their fifth straight loss, coming up one completion short.
Credit that last rib-jolting hit -- legal all-around -- by the Steelers' on-the-spot defenders.
"The defense held strong," said Ben Roethlisberger, who was 17-for-27 for 163 yards with a touchdown and an interception that helped the Bengals rally at the end.
"This is how the Steelers play ball," Pittsburgh defensive back Ike Taylor said. "We might get a blowout here and there. But we're always in tough, close ballgames. As a defense we just want to close them out. That's what we did tonight."
Pittsburgh seemed to be in control when Antwaan Randle El threw a 39-yard touchdown pass off a trick play to open the fourth quarter, building a 27-7 lead made possible by the Bengals' many mistakes. Pittsburgh also had points set up by a fumbled kickoff, a blocked punt and a missed field goal.
Then, the Steelers turned sloppy as well. Roethlisberger threw an interception that set up Terrell Owens' second touchdown catch of the game, and Jeff Reed missed a 46-yard field goal try that would have clinched it with 3:59 to go.
The drama had just begun.
Carson Palmer led the Bengals downfield with the help of a wacky play. His pass to Cedric Benson was tipped, but the running back made a juggling catch for a 16-yard gain on third and long. Chad Ochocinco's only catch of the game moved it to the 12-yard line.
It was fitting that Harrison had a shoulder in the final play. He got his third fine of the season, this one pushing the total to $100,000, for a hit last week on the Saints' Drew Brees.
Commissioner Roger Goodell was at the game, watching as the Harrison-led defense got the best of the Ohio River rivalry, one the Bengals swept last season with the help of a last-minute comeback at Paul Brown Stadium.
Eight seconds into the game, the Bengals already were in trouble.
The Steelers won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. Bernard Scott got the kickoff and fumbled at the Cincinnati 25. Pittsburgh needed four plays to score, with Rashard Mendenhall pushing the final yard for a 7-0 lead.
Bengals fans were incredulous moments later when William Gay burst through the middle of the line untouched and blocked Kevin Huber's punt at the Cincinnati 30-yard line -- Pittsburgh's first blocked punt in two years.
Reed's 25-yard field goal made it 10-0, just like that.
Pit--Mendenhall 1 run (Reed kick), 12:57.
Pit--FG Reed 25, 7:46.
Cin--Owens 19 pass from C.Palmer (Nugent kick), 8:46.
Pit--Ward 8 pass from Roethlisberger (Reed kick), 2:07.
Pit--FG Reed 53, :05.
Pit--Wallace 39 pass from Randle El (Reed kick), 14:50.
Cin--Owens 27 pass from C.Palmer (Nugent kick), 13:12.
Cin--Benson 1 run (Nugent kick), 9:05.
|Total Net Yards||314||272|
|Time of Possession||32:19||27:41|
RUSHING--Pittsburgh, Mendenhall 22-99, Roethlisberger 5-13, Moore 2-5, Redman 2-2, Randle El 1-2. Cincinnati, Benson 18-54.
PASSING--Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger 17-27-1-163, Randle El 1-1-0-39. Cincinnati, C.Palmer 22-36-1-248.
RECEIVING--Pittsburgh, Wallace 5-110, Mendenhall 3-31, Miller 3-21, Ward 3-10, Moore 2-8, Spaeth 1-12, Randle El 1-10. Cincinnati, Owens 10-141, Shipley 4-47, Leonard 3-14, Benson 2-20, Gresham 2-11, Ochocinco 1-15.