STEELERS 27, BENGALS 21
Steelers' record: 6-2
One year ago: 6-2
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 49-32
To be the champ, you gotta be able to beat the champ, and despite their record coming into this game that is the Cincinnati Bengals, who swept both the Steelers and Ravens in winning the AFC North in 2009. In Mike Tomlin's first two seasons as coach, the Steelers were 5-1 and then 6-0 in games within their division. But last season, they were only 3-3, including an 0-3 on the road.
Throwing when they should've been running – with a 27-14 lead with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter – Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted by Roy Williams. Iffy penalties on Casey Hampton and Ike Taylor helped the Bengals get to 27-21 and make it a nail-biter.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT
Jeff Reed's 53-yard field goal tied his career high, and it was his second field goal of 50-plus yards on the year, the first a 52-yarder vs. Atlanta. Reed also had two 50-plus-yard field goals in 2004.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
* One year after Bernard Scott returned a kickoff for a touchdown against the Steelers, he fumbled the opening kickoff. Emmanuel Sanders forced the fumble, and Jason Worilds recovered at the Cincinnati 25-yard line. Ben Roethlisberger then converted a third-and-3 with a swing pass that Rashard Mendenhall ran 17 yards to the Bengals 1-yard line, who then scored on the next play for a 7-0 Steelers lead just 2:03 into the game.
- Again, with the special teams being an asset. On the Bengals' first punt, William Gay broke through to block the kick by Kevin Huber. It was the Steelers' first blocked punt since OLB Andre Frazier got one at FedEx Field against the Washington Redskins on Nov. 3, 2008. The Steelers took over at the Cincinnati 30-yard line for their second possession, but this time the offense stalled at the Bengals' 8-yard line, and Jeff Reed kicked a 25-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
- A Lawrence Timmons interception of a pass intended for Terrell Owens set up the Steelers' second touchdown drive. After a first-and-goal at the 9-yard line, the offense moved backward – first because of a false start penalty on Trai Essex, and then on a 2-yard loss on a run by Rashard Mendenhall. But on third-and-goal from the 8-yard line, Roethlisberger threw a bullet that Hines Ward grabbed while falling over the goal line for a 17-7 lead just before the two-minute warning.
- Antwaan Randle El's fifth career touchdown pass gave the Steelers a 27-7 lead one play into the fourth quarter. Randle El took a handoff from Roethlisberger, and he threw a 39-yard pass that Mike Wallace made a nice play on to come back and make the catch over Leon Hall.
WHAT WENT WRONG
* Red zone offense was a problem for the Steelers in last year's game at Paul Brown Stadium, and it bit the Steelers following the blocked punt by William Gay. Last year the Steelers had to settle for field goals last year after getting to the 2-yard line and the 7-yard line. The Steelers got to the 8-yard line this time, and Jeff Reed's 25-yard field goal gave them a 10-0 lead.
- Cedric Benson had 37 yards on eight carries in the first quarter, and the Bengals were having success running the ball out of their three-wide-receiver formation. The Steelers typically counter that with their nickel defense, which only has two defensive linemen on the field.
- Antwaan Randle El decided not to fair catch Kevin Huber's second punt – early in the second quarter – at the 10-yard line. The ball hit and was downed by Andre Caldwell at the Steelers 1-yard line.
- It wasn't much of a play anyway, and at the end of a quick throw to Hines Ward midway through the second quarter, Leon Hall forced a fumble that Roy Williams recovered at the Steelers 38-yard line. Four plays later, it was a 10-7 game after Carson Palmer's touchdown pass to Terrell Owens.
- With a 27-7 lead one play into the fourth quarter, the Steelers defense allowed the Bengals to drive 66 yards in five plays and use only 1:38 of the game clock to answer with a touchdown of their own.
Within a span of three plays in the second quarter against the Bengals in Cincinnati, the offensive line depth was tested severely.
On a first down play in which Isaac Redman gained 1 yard, left guard Chris Kemoeatu injured his right ankle. He was helped off the field, and Doug Legursky replaced him. Two plays later, on Rashard Mendenhall's 22-yard run, Maurkice Pouncey injured his lower right leg.
Pouncey was taken into the locker room on a cart to have X-rays. He returned late in the first half and finished the game. Then in the second half, Max Starks injured his neck, and he was replaced by Jonathan Scott.
Brett Keisel left early after re-injuring the hamstring that had kept him out of the previous two games.