BENGALS 13, STEELERS 10
Steelers’ record: 7-8
One year ago: 11-4
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 53-33
This actually started back on Sept. 16, the whole concept of the Steelers facing a critical game. Back then the opponent was the New York Jets, and the significance at the time was the importance of avoiding an 0-2 start to their season. But this time – against the Cincinnati Bengals – there was nothing nebulous about the stakes for the Steelers. Win, and their hopes for the playoffs and even a division championship, stay alive; lose, and there can be no playoffs for them.
The start of the third quarter often is the critical time in a football game, and so it was on Sunday at Heinz Field. Trailing 10-7, the Bengals received the second half kickoff, and on the first play
STAT THAT STANDS OUT I
The Steelers converted 2-of-14 on third downs, and their 14 percent conversion percentage was the second-lowest of the season. They converted 1-of-9 (11 percent) in Cleveland on Nov. 25.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT II
This season will mark the first since 2006 in which the Steelers have entered the final game of the regular season with no chance to make the playoffs.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
* The other team can commit penalties on special teams, too. A holding call on Jason Allen nullified a 62-yard punt return by Adam Jones. So instead of a first down at the Steelers 13-yard line, the Bengals began their second possession of the game at their own 15-yard line.
* The Steelers were trailing by 10-0 late in the first half, and the Steelers offense had managed only 106 total net yards to that point. But on consecutive plays,
* The Bengals received the second half kickoff, and QB Andy Dalton tried to get the ball to WR A.J. Green, who had only three catches for 29 yards in the first half. But
* In a 10-10 game with 1:14 left in the third quarter,
* One play after committing a 28-yard pass interference penalty on A.J. Green that gave the Bengals possession at the Pittsburgh 42-yard line, Cortez Allen stripped the ball from Green on a short completion and
* Cortez Allen ended up with the interception – his second of the game – but the play was made by
* Bengals coach Marvin Lewis made a curious decision, a potentially outcome-determining decision, when he elected to have Josh Brown – a fill-in for regular kicker Mike Nugent who was inactive due to injury – attempt a 56-yard field goal with 3:22 remaining in the fourth quarter of a 10-10 game. The kick was short, and the Steelers took possession at their 46-yard line.
WHAT WENT WRONG
* The Bengals won the toss and elected to defer, which put the Steelers offense on the field first. It started with a 13-yard run by
* It’ll get better once the regular officials get back. On Cincinnati’s opening offensive possession, a sack of Andy Dalton by
* The Steelers converted none of their first three third-down situations, and the last of those failures turned into disaster when Leon Hall stepped in front of
* There were some positives to take from the Steelers’ fourth possession, what with a running into the punter penalty setting up a fourth-and-1 that
* Cortez Allen intercepted a pass intended for Andrew Hawkins on the first play of the second half, and the Steelers looked to be in good shape to tie the game at least. But on a third-and-7 from the Cincinnati 29-yard line, Geno Atkins drove
* About 90 seconds of game time after Josh Brown was short on a 56-yard field goal attempt, Shaun Suisham was short on an attempt from 52 yards. The Bengals took over at their own 43-yard line with 1:47 to play.
* Even though the Bengals had such good field position after Suisham’s miss, the Steelers defense forced a three-and-out to get the ball back to the offense with 44 seconds left in a game still tied, 10-10. On the third play, Ben Roethlisberger’s pass for