A season that was going about as well as expected has suddenly gone the other way in the course of 21 days.
The Bengals had a commanding 14-3 lead over the Steelers Sunday night, but by the time it was over they were shell-shocked, losers to Pittsburgh for the 12th time in their last 14 meetings at home, losing 24-17.
Andy Dalton, one week after tossing for a career-high 381 yards in a loss to Cleveland, wound up with 105 in Cincinnati’s third straight loss. The second- year starter was intercepted once and connected with A.J. Green for a score.
The problem was, it was Green’s only catch of the night, and showed just how deflated the Bengals offense was. Cincy had just two first downs in the second half, and just 60 total yards, 32 of which came on the their first drive of the third quarter when they got a field goal to go up 17-14.
Pittsburgh ran past the Bengals for 167 yards on 29 carries, an average of 5.8 yards per carry. This despite the Steelers not having Rashard Mendenhall or Issac Redman, their top two running backs, who both sat with injuries.
Jonathan Dwyer stepped in and had his best game as a pro, going off against the Bengals for 122 yards on 17 carries, putting up an average of 7.2 yards per carry.
The Steelers offense also put up 264 yards in the air, as Ben Roethlisberger threw to 8 different pass catchers, throwing 27-for-37 for 278 yards with a touchdown to Heath Miller and a pick in the end zone.
Chris Rainey put the Steelers ahead for good, as he scored the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and from there the Steelers defense dominated, as they held Dalton and the Bengals to three punts in the fourth quarter. The Bengals ran just 11 plays in the quarter.
Both teams kicked field goals on their first possessions of the second half, as Cincinnati’s Mike Nugent booted a 48-yarder before Shaun Suisham was true from 45 yards out.
A series of punts ensued, and on the last play of the third quarter, Roethlisberger found Emmanuel Sanders across the middle for a 31-yard gain down to the Cincinnati 14-yard line.
After a 3-yard pickup, Rainey, a rookie from Florida, took a handoff up the middle and crossed the goal line to give Pittsburgh a 24-17 lead with 14:16 remaining.
The Steelers squandered fourth-quarter leads in each of their three losses this season, but their defense made sure the 7-point cushion was enough.
The final series for the Bengals started at their own 11-yard line following a Roethlisberger pooch punt. Two runs from BenJarvus Green-Ellis netted no yards, and an incomplete pass intended for Green brought out the punting unit.
An 11-yard catch by Mike Wallace and a 32-yard run by Dwyer allowed Pittsburgh to run off the final 3:57 and get out of Paul Brown Stadium with another win.
Cincinnati scored two touchdowns in the first half around Suisham’s 42 and 47- yard field goals.
Green-Ellis carried the ball eight times for 44 yards on the Bengals’ opening possession, including a 1-yard run on 4th-and-1 from the Pittsburgh 21. Cedric Peerman capped the drive with a five-yard TD run.
Roethlisberger was picked off in the end zone early in the second quarter, then lost a fumble at his own 8-yard line the next time Pittsburgh touched the ball. Dalton and Green hooked up on a slant in the end zone on the play immediately following the turnover.
A Dalton interception — one that slipped out of his hands, bounced off a helmet and landed in linebacker LaMarr Woodley‘s arms — set up Miller’s 9- yard touchdown catch in the final minute of the half. Miller also caught the 2-point conversion in the left corner of the end zone.
The Bengals are on the bye next week, and return home to host Peyton Manning and the Broncos on November 4th at 1pm.