The Pittsburgh Steelers overcame two first-half turnovers, multiple dropped passes, and the absence of five key players, including four starters, to pull back to .500 and move into sole possession of second place in the AFC North with a 24-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night.
Pittsburgh took advantage of a 41-yard return on the opening kickoff by rookie running back Chris Rainey to set up a 42-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham. The Bengals would respond with a 15-play, 80-yard drive that took over eight minutes off the clock and was punctuated with a five-yard run by backup running back Cedric Peerman.
On their following possession, the Steelers were in position to put more points on the scoreboard, but quarterback Ben Roethisberger's pass towards well-covered tight end Heath Miller was intercepted in the end zone by safety Chris Crocker. On their next possesion, Roethlisberger fumbled after being sacked by Bengals defensive linemen Robert Geathers and Devon Still, with Wallace Gilberry recovering at the Steelers' eight-yard line.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton connected with Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green for an eight-yard touchdown on the following play to give Cincinnati a 14-3 lead. Green has now scored a touchdown in six consecutive games with a touchdown, but it would be the only pass he'd catch on the night as Ike Taylor blanketed him all night while the Steelers provided a safety over-the-top to keep the Bengals' top offensive weapon in check.
Pittsburgh chipped into the Bengals' lead with a 47-yard field goal by Suisham with 3:07 to play in the first half and then with Roethlisberger hitting Miller for a nine-yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds remaining in the half. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made the curious decision to go for the two-point conversion early in the game, with Roethlisberger and Miller connecting to even the score at the break.
Both teams would exchange field goals in the third quarter before Rainey squirted through the Cincinnati defense for an 11-yard touchdown run with 14:16 to play in the game. For Rainey, it was the first touchdown of his NFL career and would be the game-deciding points, lifting the Steelers to a fifth straight win over the Bengals.
Despite the dropped passes, Roethlisberger had an efficient night, completing 27-of-37 pass attempts for 278 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Wide receiver Mike Wallace had eight receptions for 52 yards and Antonio Brown added seven grabs for 96 yards. Miller, who appears back to his Pro Bowl form of 2009, had six receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown, his fifth on the season.
The Steelers offense received a surprising jolt from their running game. Playing without top running backs Rashard Mendenall and Isaac Redman, the Steelers' ground game, which ranked 31st in the NFL entering Sunday night with a 74.8 yards per game average, pounded out 168 yards (excluding a QB kneel down) thanks largely to Jonathan Dwyer setting a career-high with 122 yards on 17 carries.
Dalton completed just 14-of-28 attempts for 105 yards and a touchdown and an interception as the Bengals mustered just 185 yards of total offense on Sunday night. One positive for the Bengals offense is that they did not allow one sack even though center Jeff Faine, who is playing in place of the injured Kyle Cook, left the game with a hamstring injury and was replaced by undrafted rookie Trevor Robinson, who had played just eight snaps on offense entering Sunday night's game.
The Steelers host the Washington Redskins at Heinz Field next Sunday afternoon, while the Bengals limp into their bye week on a three-game losing streak that has dropped them to 3-4 on the 2012 season. The Bengals have a two-game home stand with the Manning Brothers after the bye, with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos visiting Paul Brown Stadium on Nov. 4 and Eli Manning and the New York Giants coming to town on Nov. 11.
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