Steelers vs. Bengals game recap: Everything we know from Week 1

·4 min read

A season-opening bout with the Pittsburgh Steelers was never going to be a pretty game for the Cincinnati Bengals and the 23-20 loss simply wasn’t.

But despite a rough first half, those Bengals charged back and forced overtime. Granted, that overtime doesn’t happen and the Bengals straight-up win if their long-snapper wasn’t injured.

Either way, they went to overtime and that long-snapper injury came up again when Evan McPherson missed a game-winning 29-yarder.

Keep in mind Week 1 is always unpredictable, even before the fact the Bengals had starters missing time during training camp and not playing at all during the preseason. That, plus Pittsburgh’s biggest strength (defensive line) ran up well against Cincinnati’s biggest weakness (offensive line).

All that aside, here’s everything we know from the game.

Final score: 23-20

Cara Owsley-USA TODAY Sports

 

Keys to the game

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Turnovers: Joe Burrow wasn’t seeing the field well in the first half and poor pass-blocking wasn’t helping, leading to four turnovers. Luckily for the offense, a strong showing for the defense made sure the first half didn’t create an insurmountable deficit…That Line: Cincinnati’s line debuting four new starters who didn’t practice together much this summer was always going to struggle against this Steelers front. Most concerning was the rookie left guard Cordell Volson, but he was lining up against one of the NFL’s best in Cam Heyward…Defense: The unheralded elite unit from the Super Bowl run was in typical top form, rarely giving up big non-trick plays and coming up clutch in key situations.

It was over when...

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

NEVER. The game never ended, not when the Bengals scored what should have been a game-winning touchdown and not when McPherson lined up for a 29-yarder. Which is to say…long-snappers are important and Week 1 is wild.

Bengals' Top Performers

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

QB Joe Burrow: 33/53, 338 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

RB Joe Mixon: 27 rushes, 82 yards

WR Tyler Boyd: 4 catches, 33 yards, 1 TD

WR Ja’Marr Chase: 10 catches, 129 yards, 1 TD

LB Logan Wilson: 8 total tackles, 1 PBU

DL BJ Hill: 3 tackles, 1 sack

Injuries

Cara Owsley-USA TODAY Sports

Wideout Tee Higgins suffered a concussion in the first half and was ruled out. Other Bengals stars limped off in overtime, but it’s safe to presume cramps in Week 1.

Important game notes

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

— Nightmare start for the Bengals as the line starting four new players gave up a sack on the first play. A rusty-looking Burrow then fired a late throw that went for a pick-six. Not totally unexpected given the lack of reps for the whole unit this summer, but a majorly bad start.

— Evan McPherson hit from 59 yards, a club record and one yard longer than the record he set last year.

— As expected, pass-blocking was an issue early for the Bengals, whereas the run-blocking was just fine. But a Burrow-sack fumble during the former gave the Steelers free points to make it 10-3.

— Third turnover for Burrow was a leaping interception by T.J. Watt at the line of scrimmage. Best defender in football read the quick pass and timed it right while the offensive line didn’t get in him to prevent it.

— Steelers ran up to 14 points off Bengals turnovers in the first half after that Watt INT led to a touchdown.

— Cincinnati stayed in the game through sheer defensive effort headed up by the defensive line and stout coverage.

— Burrow threw a fourth pick in the second half on a ball that had no chance to make it through a pair of defenders. He was throwing off his back foot often because of his line, but he wasn’t seeing the field all that well, either.

— Bengals fell short on a fourth-and-inches attempt that would have likely won the game after stunningly choosing not to challenge what might have been a touchdown by Ja’Marr Chase.

— The final two minutes of this game were the craziest fans will ever see. Bengals blew a fourth-and-inches for a game-winning score, then got the ball back because the Steelers were silly with their possession, only to march down the field and score. But…they missed the extra point because long-snapper Clark Harris left the game earlier due to injury, which meant overtime. And that’s a nice, clean summation of it.

— Evan McPherson missed a 29-yard field goal in overtime to win it, likely due to the change in timing after the switch at long-snapper.

— …Then Chris Boswell missed his first attempt ever in the building, giving the Bengals one last chance.

— Boswell didn’t miss his second chance right at the buzzer.

What's next?

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The Bengals hit the road for a game against the Dallas Cowboys, a game that will have a pretty big national audience because of a 4:25 p.m. ET start.

Story originally appeared on Bengals Wire