BENGALS 20, STEELERS 10**
Steelers' record: 0-2
One year ago: 1-1
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 53-34
In their opener, the Steelers committed two turnovers and came away with no takeaways, allowed five sacks, committed two penalties on special teams that cost the offense close to 30 yards in field position, managed only two plays that gained 20-plus yards, and were the only team in the league to have 0 rushing first downs. Coach Mike Tomlin talked about what he needed for the team to bounce back against the Bengals. "To not beat ourselves. To get off to a clean start. To not have a lot of negativity early. To find a rhythm and allow ourselves to settle into the type of game we can play."
With 7:51 left in the fourth quarter and the Bengals holding a 20-10 lead, the Steelers offense had run 40 plays to 71 for Cincinnati. The reason for the disparity was the comparative third-down conversion rate. While the Steelers were just 1-for-9 before a final possession in garbage time, the Bengals converted 6-of-15.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT
Since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, the Steelers had opened seasons 0-2 seven previous times, four under Chuck Noll and three under Bill Cowher. Noll's 0-2 teams made the playoffs once (1982); Cowher's 0-2 teams made the playoffs twice (1993, 2002). This is the first time a Mike Tomlin Steelers team opened a season at 0-2.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
* Special teams got off to a strong start and completed a quality first half. Felix Jones returned the opening kickoff 34 yards, and Antonio Brown returned the Bengals' first punt 40 yards. No penalties robbed the offense of the field position, and Shaun Suisham kicked a 44-yard field goal three plays after Brown's punt return. After the Steelers scored to tie the game at 10-10, Jarvis Jones blew up blocker Wallace Gilberry on the ensuing kickoff and dropped the returner at the 15-yard line.
- Ben Roethlisberger showed nice awareness on a first-down running play to Felix Jones midway through the first period. With two Bengals defenders in the backfield cleanly and prepared to dump Felix Jones for a loss, Roethlisberger pulled the ball out and ran it himself around the right side for a 6-yard gain.
- The Bengals faced a third-and-10 from the Steelers' 23-yard line with Andy Dalton in the shotgun. At the snap, Troy Polamalu attacked the line of scrimmage and attracted two Bengals offensive linemen, which allowed a free path for Lawrence Timmons who hurried Dalton into the incomplete pass that preceded a Bengals field goal and a 10-3 margin.
- When the possession began with 2:19 left in the first half, Ben Roethlisberger had completed just 4-of-11 for 65 yards, but on that drive he completed all five of his passes for 65 yards, including the 1-yard touchdown to Derek Moye that tied the game at 10-10.
- During that game-tying touchdown drive, the Steelers faced a third-and-8 at their own 37-yard line. The play turned into a 19-yard pass from Roethlisberger to Emmanuel Sanders to convert the third down, and the protection was what allowed the completion to happen.
- With Ike Taylor defending A.J. Green no matter where he lined up, the Bengals' All-Pro receiver was targeted 10 times through three quarters and had just five receptions for 36 yards. Midway through the fourth quarter, Green had been targeted 13 times and had six catches for 41 yards.
WHAT WENT WRONG
* Isaac Redman was to start at RB for the Steelers, but that plan was blown up when he was shaken up on the opening kickoff. Felix Jones got the start instead of Redman.
- A 34-yard catch-and-run by David Paulson down to the Bengals' 13-yard line became nothing but a turnover when Adam Jones stripped the ball loose and recovered the fumble. Originally ruled down by contact, the play was overturned on a replay challenge by Marvin Lewis with 3:22 left in the first quarter.
- Five plays after Paulson's lost fumble, the Bengals had the ball in the end zone and a 7-3 lead with 57 seconds left in the opening quarter. The big play was a 61-yard catch-and-run by Tyler Eifert in which there had to be a blown coverage by the Steelers.
- On the Steelers' possession following the Bengals' touchdown, Jerricho Cotchery dropped a pass on a second-and-7 in which he easily would have gotten the necessary yardage for the first down. The next play was an incomplete pass, and so the Steelers ended up punting from their own 23-yard line.
- A phantom tripping call on Marcus Gilbert nullified a 33-yard catch-and-run by Antonio Brown that came on a third-and-10 from the Steelers' 37-yard line. The Steelers punted.
- On a third-and-3 from the Steelers' 13-yard line, LaMarr Woodley jumped offside on a play that ended up as an incomplete pass. But the 5-yard penalty converted the third down and put the Bengals at the Pittsburgh 8-yard line.