By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers proved that they still are among the best teams in the AFC, and the Cincinnati Bengals showed that they still have a ways to go to catch up after a 35-7 loss Sunday at Heinz Field.
There were plenty of mistakes for the Bengals, but the Steelers put them away late in the third quarter with a 10-play, 93-yard drive in 6 minutes, 39 seconds. Rashard Mendenhall ran for 13, and Isaac Redman spun off the pile for 27 yards into the red zone. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger fired to Hines Ward for 11, and a facemask penalty put the ball at the 9. After a holding call, Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace for his second touchdown on the afternoon.
The high points were numerous for the Steelers, as Wallace led the way with two scoring catches. Ward added five receptions for 30 yards to surpass 12,000 in his career. He becomes the 19th player in NFL history do reach that figure. He needs 10 catches in the final four games for 1,000 in his career.
Roethlisberger was 15-for-23 for 176 yards and two touchdowns to Walle, while Dalton completed just 11 of 24 passes for 135 yards and one score.
Defensively, James Harrison sacked Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton three times, while the group kept Cincinnati and its rookie signal-caller off-balance most of the game. Ike Taylor added an interception in the fourth quarter to stave off any momentum change.
On the negative side, the Steelers suffered several injuries. Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who returned after missing three games in four weeks, re-injured his hamstring in the first quarter. Right offensive guard Ramon Foster suffered an ankle injury and was replaced by Trai Essex. And Mewelde Moore injured his right ankle.
The Bengals did more harm than good during the first quarter. After forcing the Steelers to go three-and-out to open the game, the Bengals drove from their 37 for a touchdown with a 43-yard pass from Dalton to Green the key play.
However, there was a false start prior to Daltonâs four-yard scoring pass to tight end Jermaine Gresham, and Mike Nugent eventually had to kick a field goal. His 28-yarder would have been good, but there was a delay penalty. Then, on his 33-yard try, Steelers rookie No. 1 pick Cam Heyward blocked it.
A holding penalty thwarted the Bengalsâ next possession, and the Steelers took advantage. They drove 87 yards in nine plays and 5:45 with Roethlisberger hitting Antonio Brown underneath, and he turned the short pass into a 45-yard gain to the 15. Four plays later, three runs by Isaac Redman and a three-yard burst by Rashard Mendenhall, and the Steelers were in the end zone.
The Steelers forced a three-and-out on the Cincy series and Roethlisberger threw it long right away. Chris Crocker was called for a pass-interference penalty for 45 yards, and the Steelers were at the 20. Mendenhall ran for 15 to the 5 and two plays later he was in the end zone for a second TD. The only negative for the Steelers was that LaMarr Woodley re-injured his hamstring.
The Bengals fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, as Stevenson Sylvester forced the play, and Emmanuel Sanders recovered it. After a Redman run, Brown took a reverse and ran nine yards for a first down to the 12. Roethlisberger found Wallace open in the right side of the end zone for the score to give the Steelers a 21-0 lead, as Shaun Suisham kicked his third extra point.
The Bengals finally scored with 4:06 remaining in the first half, as Dalton and Green connected a couple times. Dalton also hit Greshman for 20 yards, and Green ran a reverse for 15. In the red zone, Dalton went to Green for 14 to the 13 and the final 11 for the touchdown. It was a 10-play, 80-yard drive in 4:27.
The Bengals had just 1:48 remaining until halftime and for some reason believed they should pass. Three incompletions forced a punt from the end zone to the dangerous Brown, and the second-year player made them pay with a dazzling 60-yard touchdown return. It was his first punt runback for a touchdown. He had a kickoff return for a score last year as a rookie.
Pittsburgh host Cleveland Thursday night.
By the Numbers
4-4: Pittsburgh went 4-4 in the redzone as Rashard Mendenhall (16 CAR – 60 Yards – 2TD) scored touchdowns on runs of 3 and 5 yards, while Mike Wallace (3 REC – 38 Yards – 2TD) caught TD passes of 12 and 19 yards inside the redzone
+2: The Steelers forced 2 turnovers, an Ike Taylor interception and Emmanuel Sanders recovered a Bengals fumble on a kickoff. The Steelers have forced 6 turnovers in their last two games. At the 10 game mark, the Steelers only had 6 takeways
28: Rashard Mendenhall scored his 27th and 28th career rushing touchdowns in the win. Mendenhall ties Franco Harris as the only Steelers to have 28 rushing touchdowns in their first four seasons.
78: Antonio Brown’s 60 yard punt return was the first of his career and the Steelers first punt return for touchdown since 2006, a span of 78 games (regular season).
3: After going two games without a sack, James Harrison recorded 3 sacks in the win. It was Harrison second three sack game this season and the 6th time in his career Harrison has recorded 3 sacks or more in a game.
54.2: Jeremy Kapino’s had punts of 57 and 59 yards in the first half and had an excellent game averaging 54.2 yards per punt ( 5 Punts – 271 yards)
12,000: Hines Ward (5 REC – 30 Yards) led the Steelers with 5 receptions and hit a milestone, surpassing the 12,000 receiving yards mark in his career.
2,026: Ben Roethlisberger went 15 of 23 for 176 yards and 2 touchdowns in the win. Roethlisberger in the second half surpassed Terry Bradshaw as the Steelers career leader in pass completions, reaching the 2,026 mark.
117.3: Roethlisberger for the fourth time this season had a passer rating of at least 100. Roethlisberger posted a 117.3 QB rating today.