On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5), handed the Cincinnati Bengals (8-4-1) their second consecutive loss inside Paul Brown Stadium, and cut the Cincinnati lead to just a half game in the AFC North Standings.
For three quarters of the contest, the game looked even. On the final play of the third quarter, Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton threw a bomb to AJ Green for an 81 yard touchdown to send the Bengals into the lead, 21-17, heading into the game’s final quarter.
However, it was the Steelers that proved that they have one of, if not the best offense in the NFL. Ben Roethlisberger finished the game with 350 yards passing and three touchdown tosses against a Bengals’ secondary that came into the game allowing just 11 passing touchdowns all season, which was first in the NFL.
If the stellar play by Roethlisberger wasn’t enough, running back Le’Veon Bell continued to prove why he is in the discussion for the leagues’ MVP award at the end of the year. Bell tallied 185 yards on the ground, caught six passes for 50 yards, and scored three total touchdowns. The Steelers’ offensive line practically bullied Cincy’s front seven, running the exact same running play multiple times in a row.
Bell broke through the left side of the line, following the pull blocks by the Steelers’ tight end and right guard. This was the play Bell ran for 53 yards following the aforementioned Green touchdown, and the play that Bell scored on from 13 yards out to give Pittsburgh the 28-21 lead in the fourth quarter.
On a positive note for the Bengals, Andy Dalton was superb, rebounding from his three interception first half against the Buccaneers a week ago. The Red Rifle finished the contest completing 21-of-29 passes for 302 yards and three total touchdowns. Dalton showed off his running ability in the second quarter, faking a handoff to Jeremy Hill and keeping himself for a 20 yard touchdown run. This is the second straight week we’ve seen Dalton keep the zone read handoff and finish with a touchdown. That 20 yard run was the longest touchdown run by a Bengals’ quarterback in the history of the franchise.
Dalton once again found success throwing to AJ Green, who had his way with Ike Taylor the entire day. On top of his 81-yard touchdown to end the third quarter, Green also had a 53 yard catch to set up the first Bengals’ touchdown, a 10 yard corner connection to tight end Jermaine Gresham.
Momentum swayed away from the Bengals in the fourth quarter. After a Steelers’ field goal that cut the Cincinnati lead to one, Dalton’s zone read handoff to Jeremy Hill fell to the turf and was recovered by the Steelers’ linebacker Arthur Moats.
After the fumble, Pittsburgh controlled every aspect of the game. Three plays following the turnover, Bell rushed through the left side for a 13 yard score, the following two point conversion to Heath Miller (who also caught a touchdown in the 2nd quarter), gave the Steelers a 28-21 lead.
Just three minutes later, Cincinnati punted and had the Steelers backed up at their own six yard line. Roethlisberger faked the hand off and flew a deep pass to the sprinting Martavis Bryant who ran right pass Bengals’ corner Leon Hall. The play went for 94 yards and a touchdown and was the dagger.
On Pittsburgh’s final possession, Bell would run five times for 50 yards and his third touchdown of the game, from 22 yards out to make the score 42-21, which would prove to be the final.
No doubt this loss is huge for the Bengals, as they had the chance to extend their lead over the Steelers by 2.5 games with a win. Around the AFC North, the Browns had a huge win in the grasp, but allowed a 90 yard game-winning touchdown drive to Andrew Luck and the Colts, losing 25-24, their third loss in their last four games. The Baltimore Ravens went into Miami and defeated a very tough Dolphins team, 28-13. Cincinnati now leads by just a half game over the Steelers and the Ravens, 1.5 over the Browns whom they will face next week in Cleveland.
Speaking of must wins, the Bengals travel north to take on the in-state rival Browns who they lost to 24-3 back on November 6th. And with the Browns’ loss to the Colts and Brian Hoyer struggling yet again, it could mean that Johnny Manziel will get his first career NFL start when the Bengals visit next week.
Personally, I would love for Manziel to start, cause there is nothing I would rather see than that punk get slammed down by Geno Atkins or Carlos Dunlap.
Despite the loss to the Steelers, there will be a next week for the Bengals, and it will be a must-win against the DAWG Pound.
Cover Photo: Donald Miralle/Getty Images