Ben Roethlisberger knows how to win the big game, especially when it’s played in the Queen City.
Roethlisberger came out sharp and improved his all-time record in Cincinnati to 11-2 as the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) would throttle the Bengals (10-3) in a physical contest 33-20 to keep pace in the AFC playoff race. Roethlisberger completed 30 of 39 for 282 yards on the day, while the Steelers defense forced three key turnovers that led to 17 points.
DeAngelo Williams rushed for two touchdowns, Heath Miller had 10 catches while the trio of Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant combined for 18 catches for nearly 200 yards to pace an efficient Steelers offense.
Punching them in the mouth —
A pregame scuffle added extra spice to an already juicy matchup as both teams wanted to prove they are ready to challenge for AFC supremecy.
Early returns spoke volumes and would set the tone for the game.
The Steelers stormed out of the gates as Roelisberger would lead the offense 80 yards in 11 plays in their first possession of the game to take an early 7-0 lead. Heath Miller, Markus Wheaton and Antonio Brown all had catches that would keep the drive going and DeAngelo Williams would finish the drive off with a 1-yd TD plunge.
The defense wasted little time doing their part. Stephon Tuitt’s slick interception thrwarted a promising opening Bengals drive and quarterback Andy Dalton would injure his thumb on the play. Dalton would miss the remainder of the game with backup AJ McCarren forced to carry the load.
Talk the talk…Walk the walk?
Plenty of bluster from the likes of Vontaze Burfict and Dre Kirkpatrick of the Bengals, but it was the Steelers who delivered on the field. The Steelers were physically dominant while Burfict, Dalton, Tyler Eifert and George Iloka all left the game with injuries.
Most notable was Burfict who spent most of the game going back and forth from the sidelines nursing a head injury after plenty of talk all week. The biggest impact Burfict made was on the Bengals training staff and his late personal foul spoke volumes.
Third down dominance thanks to Ben and Heath —
Miller returned after missing the Colts game and once again proved to be Mr. Reliable. This was especially the case on third down, as five of Miller’s 10 catches were third down conversions. Miller rarely gets enough credit for the job he does in the passing game and today he was crucial to the Steelers success on third downs.
Roethlisberger was 9 of 10 on third down passing attempts and seven of those completions went for third down conversions. When the Steelers are hitting at that rate, they are going to be hard to beat.
All three interceptions were massive —
Give the Steelers defense some credit. Tuitt’s pick of Dalton set the tone while William Gay’s pick-six on the second play of the third quarter put the Bengals down 23-7 just when they were in position to make the game close. Gay now has five interception returns for touchdowns as a Steeler, tying him with Hall of Fame defensive back Rod Woodson.
The final interception by safety Robert Golden late in the fourth quarter would set the Steelers up for Williams second TD run of the game and a 33-13 lead.
The Steelers pass defense may not be great, but the timeliness of all three interceptions follows a season-long theme of the picks coming in big sports and at the right time.
Up next —
There will be little time to celebrate the Bengals win with the Denver Broncos coming to Pittsburgh for a game for massive playoff implications next Sunday with kickoff set for 4:25 pm.