On a night when the outcome of the game became secondary to the well-being of Ryan Shazier, the Steelers somehow fought from behind and pulled out a 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
The win improves the Steelers to 10-2 and keeps them right at the top of the AFC.
But it’s Shazier who was on everyone’s mind after the game. He was injured in the first quarter when he tackled Josh Malone after a three-yard catch, and immediately grabbed his back. He had to be taken off the field on a back board, and was later taken to the hospital.
“This is a tough game, a tough business,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “5-0 is our brother. Our thoughts and prayers out to him. I don’t have any update in terms of his status. He is receiving quality medical care. We’ll release an update at the appropriate time. We are just happy he is getting the necessary medical attention he deserves. He has a lot of brothers in there that are thoughtful about him and wanted to honor that performance for him.”
Tomlin admitted it was hard to focus after the injury, as there is no doubt Shazier never left the mind of anyone on the field the entire game.
“We care about that man,” said Tomlin. “We care about all of the men. That’s just a tough element of our game. One that we all understand. We had to get back on task and we were able to do it and make enough plays to win the game.”
And make the plays when it mattered most is exactly what the Steelers did. Chris Boswell nailed his third field goal of the night, a 38-yarder, for his third walk-off field goal in the last four games.
The Steelers got off to a rocky start on their opening drive. Ben Roethlisberger’s pass intended for Eli Rogers was intercepted by Adam Jones, who made a diving pick, at the Bengals 41-yard line. The Bengals also drew an unnecessary roughness call on the play on Le’Veon Bell, giving them the ball at the Steelers 44-yard line.
The defense stepped up, holding the Bengals to a 35-yard Randy Bullock field goal, but it came at a cost, as Shazier was injured on the drive.
After the Steelers offense stalled on the next drive, the Bengals went to work. Andy Dalton completed five of six passes for 46 yards on a 12-play, 85-yard drive, that ended with an eight-yard scoring strike to A.J. Green, extending the lead to 10-0 in the first quarter.
The Bengals took the ball down the field again late in the second quarter. Dalton connected with Green on third-and-16 for a 17-yard gain, and hit Tyler Boyd for a 12-yard gain on third-and-seven. On third-and-11, Dalton found Green for a 15-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 17-0.
The Steelers got the ball back with just 26 seconds left to play in the half, and made it count. Bell turned a screen pass into a 33-yard gain to midfield. On the next play Dre Kirkpatrick was called for pass interference, giving the Steelers the ball at the Bengals 12-yard line. Boswell got the Steelers on the board headed into halftime when he hit a 30-yard field goal, cutting the lead to 17-3.
The Steelers defense stepped up to start the second half, forcing a three-and-out. The offense then went to work. Bell rattled off a 16-yard gain, and Roethlisberger hit Brown for 11 yards. Roethlisberger went to Bell, who took it down the sideline, past Bengals defenders who thought he stepped out of bounds, for a 35-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 17-10.
It didn’t take long for the Bengals to extend the lead. Randy Bullock hit a 41-yard field goal, capping a 10-play, 52-yard drive, to extend their lead to 20-10. On the ensuing kickoff, Martavis Bryant broke loose for what appeared to be a 96-yard touchdown return, but it was negated by a holding call.
It would be the Steelers who would get on the board next. Brown pulled in a 15-yard reception and Xavier Grimble got nine-yards on third-and-10. On fourth-and-one Bell bulled his way for nine yards to move the chains. Bryant drew a pass interference call on Kirkpatrick, giving the Steelers the ball at the Bengals 21-yard line. Boswell hit his second field goal of the night, from 37 yards out, to pull within a touchdown, 20-13.
The defense forced a three-and-out, and gave the ball right back to Roethlisberger and company. Bell rushed for five yards, and a roughing the passer call gave the Steelers the ball at their 40-yard line. Roethlisberger connected with Bell for nine yards, but JuJu Smith-Schuster was nailed for a 15-yard taunting penalty after a hit on Vontaze Burfict, when he stood over him taunting while Burfict lay on the field injured.
Roethlisberger then hit Brown for 24 yards, Bell for 18 yards, Smith-Schuster for five yards and Jesse James for 13 yards. He capped the drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to Brown, tying the game at 20-20.
The defense held the Bengals on their next drive with another three-and-out.
With just 2:42 to play, the offense went to work. Bell took it for nine and three yards, and Roethlisberger hit Bryant for 12 yards and Bell for 11 yards. And it was Boswell who once again came through in the end, hitting a 38-yard field goal with time running out for the 23-20 win.
A detailed look at tonight’s scoring:
First Quarter: Steelers 0, Bengals 3
Scoring Play: Randy Bullock 35-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 5-27-2:04
First Quarter: Steelers 0, Bengals 10
Scoring Play: Andy Dalton eight-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green.
Scoring Summary: 12-85-6:34
Second Quarter: Steelers 0, Bengals 17
Scoring Play: Andy Dalton 15-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green.
Scoring Summary: 15-78-6:13
Second Quarter: Steelers 3, Bengals 17
Scoring Play: Chris Boswell 30-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 3-71-0:31
Third Quarter: Steelers 10, Bengals 17
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger 35-yard touchdown pass to Le’Veon Bell.
Scoring Summary: 9-78-4:58
Third Quarter: Steelers 10, Bengals 20
Scoring Play: Randy Bullock 41-yard field goal.
Fourth Quarter: Steelers 13, Bengals 20
Scoring Play: Chris Boswell 37-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 11-74-4:29
Fourth Quarter: Steelers 20, Bengals 20
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger six-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown.
Scoring Summary: 9-80-4:10
Fourth Quarter: Steelers 23, Bengals 20
Scoring Play: Chris Boswell 38-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 8-39-2:42