The Bengals were flagged nine times for 104 yards, turned the ball over twice, and once again allowed the second quarter to turn into a disaster. A 28-7 Pittsburgh deluge in the second frame put an early end to the Bengals' chances. The 28 points spread tied an all-time record for margin of victory in games between the two teams.
Things looked positive early on. The Steelers won the toss and elected right away to go at the depleted Bengals defense. They ran on first down, but on second, Ben Roethlisberger tried the patented Steelers' wide receiver screen. Adam Jones was up to the task, bringing down Mike Wallace behind the line of scrimmage. Then the Cincinnati defense did something it didn't do in the beginning stages of the first game, get the Steelers offense off the field on third down.
Following the Steelers punt, Andy Dalton and AJ Green went to work. On the second play, Dalton faked a reverse to Andrew Hawkins and found AJ Green for 43 yards. That put the Bengals inside the red zone. Dalton found Jermaine Gresham for a first down inside the 10. Dalton had Gresham for a touchdown, but AJ Green was called for a false start. The Bengals had to settle for a Mike Nugent field goal attempt. Nugent split the uprights, but a delay of game penalty was called. Pittsburgh blocked the ensuing attempt and the great start was for naught.
The teams traded punts, but on the final play of the first quarter, Ben Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown on a crossing route near midfield. Brown made one defender miss and streaked all the way to the Bengals 15 for a 45 yard gain. Eventually Rashard Mendenhall would power in from three yards out and Pittsburgh led 7-0.
The Bengals' second quarter woes returned again. The first series for Cincinnati was a three and out. Then Pittsburgh got a gift pass interference call against Chris Crocker for 45 yards. Mendenhall found the end zone again and just like last time, the Bengals trailed 14-0. Then Brandon Tate fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Steelers had it back on the Cincinnati 23. A double reverse to Antonio Brown picked up a first down to the Bengals 12. Roethlisberger then connected with Mike Wallace and in just a little over four minutes Pittsburgh had a three touchdown lead.
Like they have all season though, the Bengals got up off the mat quickly. A great catch by Jermaine Gresham got the ball to midfield and AJ Green took a reverse 15 yards to the Pittsburgh 27. Green converted a third down to put them in the red zone and completed the drive when he snatched an 11 yard pass in the back of the end zone to bring the Bengals within 21-7.
The Bengals defense held and gave the offense the ball back, but had to punt it back to the Steelers after only using up 25 seconds. On the punt, the officials missed a block in the back in the middle of the field that sprung Antonio Brown for a 60 yard touchdown on the return. The Steelers went into the locker room with a commanding 28-7 lead.
The Bengals outgained the Steelers in the first half 169-160. But the red zone penalties that negated touchdown, the 45 yard pass interference that led to a touchdown and the punt return aided by the block in the back was too much to overcome.
With Cincinnati trailing by three touchdowns, the Steelers defense was able to pin their ears back and attack Andy Dalton with a relentless rush. The Bengals managed only 23 yards in the third quarter with Dalton being sacked twice. Bruce Gradkowski was inserted at quarterback in the fourth quarter.
Pittsburgh added a touchdown in the third quarter touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Wallace to make the score 35-7. Ben Roethlisberger was also lifted in the fourth quarter as both teams played out the remainder of the game hoping for no significant injuries.
The loss takes Cincinnati to 7-5, and now puts them at 2-3 in the AFC North. With the Steelers leading by two games and holding the season sweep, a divisional title is now all but impossible. Depending on the results of the rest of today's games, Cincinnati could be in jeopardy of losing the wild card spot as well. There's no question that next week's game at home against the Houston Texans is a must-win situation.
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