Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE
Allowing at least 10 points and 128 yards over the final 15 minutes in three previous losses, the Steelers defense suffocated Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, and rode that momentum to a season-changing 24-17 win in Week 7.
It was the Steelers defense of old, in a way.
Offensively, they sandwiched two turnovers between two field goals, and trailed 14-6 in the second quarter. Still smarting a little bit from a 15-play, 80 yard drive that was capped off by a Cedric Peerman touchdown from five yards out, the Steelers defense appeared to be heading down the same path it had in previous road losses.
And then it happened.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton pumped a pass, and on his downswing, he lost grip of the ball - an issue that plagued receivers on both sides of the ball all game. It flew forward, clanged off the helmet of one of his linemen, and right into the waiting hands of outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley.
Woodley showed a nice reverse pivot, and got upfield for a few yards.
It was the turnover the Steelers defense has desperately needed all season to slow an opposing offense down. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger shook off the cobwebs of two uncharacteristic first-half turnovers, and hit tight end Heath Miller on a nine-yard touchdown strike. The two-point conversion went to Miller as well, and just like that, the Steelers went into the locker room tied at 14 in a game fans wrote off in the first quarter.
After that, it was all defense.
Surrendering a field goal to start the second half, the Steelers defense shut the Bengals out the rest of the way, allowing just 28 yards and one first down on their last five drives.
Three of those drives came in the fourth quarter, and two of them were three-and-outs.
The fourth quarter had plagued this defense in three previous road losses. It allowed 10 points in the fourth quarter of a 26-23 loss at Tennessee in Week 6. It gave up 13 points to Oakland in a 34-31 loss in Week 3. The season began with the defense giving up 10 (the Broncos scored 17 fourth quarter points including an interception return TD) points in Denver.
In Week 7, there wasn't a point to be had.
It was an outstanding effort defensively, and it game through coverage. Dalton released the ball quickly, thus limiting pressure, and had some success early, but it was the third time the Steelers defense was able to confuse Dalton in his career. He's now 0-3 against Pittsburgh.
Cincinnati, 22 yards, one first down, zero points.