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The Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3) bounced back from a disappointing loss to bitter rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, last week, with a 24-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) in a critical AFC North clash. The loss ends a five-game winning streak for the Bengals, and also means the the team must lose their spot at the top of the division.
Whilst the Steelers were still missing linebacker LeMarr Woodley, they were boosted by the return of James Farrior, as well as James Harrison, who showed no fresh injury concerns after his return to the team last week against the Ravens. Meanwhile, Jermaine Gresham boosted the Bengals as he returned from the inactive list, and although inside linebacker Rey Maualuga’s return bolstered the Bengal’s 4th ranked N.F.L. defense, they were still without influential defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
The loss to the Ravens likely spurred the Steelers, who quickly moved to 14-0 in the first quarter, with Ben Roethlisberger finding Jerricho Cotchery for a 16-yard touchdown pass before Rashard Mendenhall added a touchdown of his own with a two-yard run. The Bengals did manage to cut the deficit before the end of the quarter though, as Andy Dalton threw a 36-yard pass into the endzone which wide receiver A. J. Green caught well above the heads of Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark.
Cincinnati did manage to tie the game at 17-17 in the second half, when Dalton floated a one-yard touchdown pass to the back of the end zone for tight end Gresham, who showed good footwork to stay in bounds and take the catch. Running back Mendenhall soon re-established Pittsburgh’s lead, however, powering into the end zone from nine yards out and setting up a tense final quarter.
Although the Bengals continued to put pressure on the Steelers defense, they were unable to truly threaten Pittsburgh’s end zone, and when William Gay intercepted Dalton’s pass, the game was effectively over for Cincinnati.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin will be happy with his team, having emerged victorious from a hard-fought game, and will be pleased with how successful his offense had been, especially against a side who were ranked fourth in the N.F.L. for defense prior to this game, as well as rushing for over a 100 yards, an accomplishment which no team has been able to achieve against the Bengals in their last six games.
Wide receiver Antonio Brown was particularly impressive for the Steelers, catching the ball for 74 yards on four catches during one drive in the first half. Not quite as impressive was Pittsburgh’s offensive line, which allowed five sacks on quarterback Roethlisberger, and will need to improve if the Steelers are to make an impact beyond the regular season. The Bengals, meanwhile, will need to bounce back quickly, as they face a testing trip to Baltimore next week when they take on divisional rivals the Ravens.
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