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The Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3) kept pace with divisional rivals the Baltimore Ravens with an emphatic victory over the Cincinnati Bengals (7-5), effectively ending the Bengals’ hopes of winning the A.F.C. North.
The Bengals were still without key players Carlos Dunlap and Nate Clements for their important trip to Heinz Field, whilst the Steelers were boosted by the news that Troy Polamalu was able to play after fears he had suffered a concussion in their previous game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The first quarter ended scoreless as both teams failed to make anything happen concerning offense, and both defenses performed well, suffocating anything the opposition offense had to offer. Cincinnati came the closest to breaking the deadlock when Jermaine Gresham thought he collected a touchdown pass from Andy Dalton; however, the play was called back for a false start.
The Bengals then thought they had taken the lead when they successfully kicked a field goal a minute later, but again faced disappointment in the form of penalization for a delay of game, as well as the moment the Steelers blocked the subsequent kick.
The game exploded into life in the second quarter, however, with Rashard Mendenhall rapidly moving Pittsburgh into a 14-point lead with two rushing touchdowns, followed by Mike Wallace grabbing a 12-yard pass for the Steelers’ third touchdown in a span of just over four minutes.
The Bengals sparked hopes of a comeback when rookies Dalton and A. J. Green linked up for a 11-yard touchdown pass, but these hopes were soon extinguished when Antonio Brown ran in a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown just before the half, extending Pittsburgh’s lead back to 21 points.
Ben Roethlisberger wrapped up the scoring in the third quarter when he found Wallace for a 19-yard touchdown pass and the receivers’ second touchdown of the game. Roethlisberger went on to finish with 176 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions on his 23 attempted passes.
Another standout Steeler was defensive linchpin James Harrison, who looked quite the frightening form as he registered three sacks on the usually well-protected Dalton. Cornerback Ike Taylor was also in imperious form for Pittsburgh, putting in seven tackles as well as picking up an interception, as he helped the Steelers to a strong defensive performance.
The Bengals, who have enjoyed a good season, have now lost both their games against the Steelers and are unlikely to be able to challenge either the Steelers or the Ravens at the top of the A.F.C. North, but with outstanding youngsters like Dalton and Green, Head Coach Marvin Lewis can be optimistic about Cincinnati’s chances of upsetting those perennial power houses in one of the most competitive divisions of the N.F.L.
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