By Teresa Varley
The Steelers jumped out to a 13-0 lead, but couldn't hold on in the closing seconds losing to the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Steelers lead 20-9 going into the fourth quarter, but the Bengals scored 14 unanswered points and won the game quarterback Carson Palmer hit Andre Caldwell for a four-yard touchdown with just 14 seconds on the clock.
"We have some work to do," said coach Mike Tomlin "We have to finish football games better. That is the mark of a champion. It is not us at this point. We have to continue to grow. We have to accept responsibility for our actions, get back in the lab and turn over whatever stones possible to find a winning formula to get in the locker room victorious when we are in control of football games. That is the reality of it. We won't run away from that, we acknowledge that. We accept responsibility for what happened."
The loss, which ends a nine-game winning streak the Steelers had in Cincinnati, drops the Steelers record to 1-2 on the season while the Bengals improved to 2-1.
Caldwell took the opening kickoff at the 12-yard line for the Bengals and went right up the middle for a 39-yard return before Keiwan Ratliff brought him down at the Steelers 49-yard line. The Bengals weren't going anywhere though. A false start call on Evan Mathis pushed them back to the Bengals 46-yard line. Cedric Benson wasn't able to fare any better, getting just one yard on his first carry, but losing a yard on the next thanks to Lawrence Timmons and Deshea Townsend. On third down Palmer couldn't connect with Chris Henry, forcing a punt.
It was an auspicious start for the Steelers offense, with Parker getting knocked for a one-yard loss and Ward getting flagged for offensive pass interference, pushing them back to their own 10-yard line. Things turned around fast when Roethlisberger hit Ward for a 41-yard gain and Parker broke free for a 24-yard gain to the Bengals 21-yard line before getting pushed out of bounds. The Steelers worked their way down to the one-yard line, but on third and goal Parker was stopped for no gain. Jeff Reed got them on the board with a 19-yard field goal to give the Steelers a 3-0 lead.
Another three and out put the Steelers back in control and they took advantage. Parker continued to roll with a five-yard gain and followed it with a 12-yard scamper off left guard. Parker continued to get the call, with a five and three-yard carry, before Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace for a six-yard gain. It was then back to Parker, but this time in the air as he found his way to the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown reception and a 10-0 lead.
The defense continued to hold the Bengals down, stopping Benson for no gain before Casey Hampton sacked Palmer for a 10-yard loss. On third down Ryan Clark almost came up with an interception, breaking up Palmer's pass and forcing the third three-and-out in as many drives.
Roethlisberger wasted no time getting the Steelers back into scoring position with a 51-yard strike to Wallace at the 10-yard line. The Bengals were able to keep them out of the end zone, but not off the board with Reed hitting a 24-yard field goal to extend the lead to 13-0.
Things started to click for the Bengals on their next drive, with Palmer connecting with Chad Ochocinco for a nine-yard grab and then a seven-yard reception for their first first down of the game. Palmer came back to Ochocinco for a 21-yard gain to the Steelers 40-yard line, their first time in Steelers territory since the opening kickoff. They wouldn't go much further. A holding penalty pushed them back and two incomplete passes forced the Bengals to punt once again.
The Steelers looked to extend their lead going into halftime, moving the ball with a nice balance of run and pass. On third-and-two Roethlisberger hit Ward for a 14-yard gain, giving Ward 10,001 career receiving yards. After an incompletion Mewelde Moore rattled off a six-yard gain. Santonio Holmes wasn't able to pull in a third down pass and they went for it on fourth down, but again Roethlisberger and Holmes weren't able to connect.
With just 1:06 on the clock Palmer went to work, hitting Henry for 19 yards and Daniel Coats for eight yards. Caldwell came up with a key 11-yard reception to the 16-yard line, but after two incomplete passes and time running out in the half the Bengals had to settle for a 34-yard Shayne Graham field goal.
The second half got off to a rough start for the Steelers. On second-and-15 Roethlisberger was looking for Holmes, but Johnathan Joseph intercepted it and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 13-9 after a bad snap on the extra point.
A golden opportunity to extend the lead slipped away from the Steelers on their next drive. On third-and four from the 34-yard line Roethlisberger aired it out to Limas Sweed, who could not hold on to the ball for what would have been a touchdown. Reed was called upon again, but this time his 52-yard attempt went wide left and they came away empty handed.
A strong defensive stand put the ball right back into Roethlisberger's hands, and this time they wouldn't be denied. A six-yard reception by Moore and a 16-yard grab by Wallace moved the chains. Ward added a 21-yard catch and Holmes pulled in an 18-yard reception to the 23-yard line. Parker's strong afternoon continued with a nine-yard reception and 10-yard carry to the four-yard line. Parker got it to the one-yard line, where Roethlisberger took it in for the touchdown and a 20-9 lead.
The Bengals had a chance to cut into the lead on their next series, but Graham's 52-yard field goal was wide left. But they got another chance fast after the Steelers weren't able to move the ball and were forced to punt for the first time.
Aided by 14 yard completions to Caldwell and Ochocinco and a defensive pass interference call the Bengals were able to quickly move into Steelers territory at the 40-yard line. Benson added an eight-yard carry and Laveranues Coles a nine-yard reception. Benson went off left tackle and straight to the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown, closing the gap to 20-15 after the failed two-point conversion.
The defense wasn't off the field for long when the Bengals first sack of the day forced them to punt on their second consecutive drive.
The Bengals took over at their own 29-yard line with 5:14 on the clock. Palmer hit Coles for 17 yards and Benson added a five-yard carry and eight-yard reception. Palmer hit Caldwell for nine yards at the Steelers 29-yard line at the two-minute warning. On second and one Palmer was able to fight for a yard, and then later on fourth down he hit Coles for the first down. Palmer was faced with another fourth down, this time hitting Brian Leonard for 11-yard with just 36 seconds to play. Palmer then hit Caldwell for a four-yard touchdown with 14 seconds to play, defeating the Steelers 23-20.