The Pittsburgh Steelers entered Week 15 with an 11-2 record. You shouldn’t hear any complaining from players, coaches or fans with that record, right?
The Steelers have dropped back-to-back games to the Washington Football Team and Buffalo Bills, only averaging 19 points per game during the last four games. Things have been dreadful in Pittsburgh the past two weeks, and the thought isn’t just beating the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15 on Monday Night Football, but doing it in dominating fashion.
Pittsburgh lost the opening coin toss, and the Bengals chose to defer their opening possession to the second half. What took place after was four consecutive series, two by both team, which resulted in a three and out.
On the Steelers’ third possession, with Roethlisberger under center for the first time of the game, the snap was fumbled and recovered by Cincinnati. After Ryan Finley found Tee Higgins for the first first down of the game, the drive was pushed backwards with a T.J. Watt sack on third down. It resulted in an Austin Seibert 34 yard field goal, making the score 3-0 with 5:12 left in the first quarter.
The Steelers’ had no answer for the Cincinnati defense, and another three and out gave the ball right back to the Bengals. After a big completion from Finley to A.J. Green, it set up a 55-yard field goal attempt by Seibert which sailed wide right, giving the Steelers’ offense their best field position of the night.
After facing another 3rd and long, a pass caught by JuJu Smith-Schuster was jarred out by Vonn Bell, and recovered by Cincinnati. It was the Steelers’ second turnover of the quarter, and gave the Bengals great field position to end the first quarter.
Deep in Pittsburgh territory to start the second quarter, it was Ryan Finley using his legs which started to move the chains. A strike from Finley to Tee Higgins put the Bengals’ offense in a first and goal situation. The very next play Giovanni Bernard plunged in from four yards out for the Cincinnati touchdown. The Seibert extra point was good, making the score 10-0 with 12:05 left in the opening half.
It took the next Steelers’ drive before they were able to convert their first first down of the game. After Benny Snell plunged forward for the fourth down conversion, the Steelers were able to convert again on third down, this time to Dionate Johnson. But the good mojo would end there when Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted on third down, the third turnover by the offense in the first half.
Finley took just three plays before hitting Gio Bernard for his second touchdown of the game. The last two turnovers by the Steelers equated into 14 points for the Bengals. The Seibert extra point was good, giving the Bengals a 17-0 lead with 4:20 left in the first half.
With no response from the Steelers, Finley and company had a chance to add to their point total, but failed to do so. When the dust settled, the Bengals took their 17-0 lead into halftime feeling great about their chances to winning their third game of the season.
Cincinnati received the football to start the second half, but the Pittsburgh defense forced a three and out and got the ball back in the hands of Ben Roethlisberger. After throwing for just 19 yards in the first half, Roethlisberger hit Chase Claypool on a wide receiver for 37 yards. The next play from scrimmage was a touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Dionate Johnson.
Chris Boswell’s point after was good, making the score 17-7 with 12:07 left in the third quarter.
After another Bengals three and out, the Steelers’ offense continued to warm up to the task. Featuring nice runs by Benny Snell Jr. and receptions by Diontae Johnson, the Pittsburgh offense faced a first and goal situation. However, the drive stalled in the red-zone and had to settle for a Boswell field goal to make the score 17-10 with 5:27 left in the third quarter.
Both teams exchanged three and outs on their next drives, and it was Finley who converted on several key third downs to put the Bengals’ offense on the move to end the third quarter. Of all the players on the Bengals’ offense who you would think would gash the Steelers, Finley running the ball would not have made anyone’s lists. Nonetheless, it was Finley running in for the touchdown to extend the Bengals’ lead 24-10 with 11:21 left in regulation.
With no margin for error, Roethlisberger was able to orchestrate another scoring drive, but it took up a lot of time. Big third down conversions to Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster set up the Steelers with a first and goal situation. The next play was Snell plunging over the goal line into the end zone. After Boswell’s point after, the Steelers trailed 24-17 with 5:32 left in the fourth quarter.
Finley’s next drive would not ice the game, but give the ball back to Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense with 2:17 left in regulation, and one timeout remaining. After three straight incomplete passes, Roethlisberger’s pass sailed high of James Washington and the Steelers turned the ball over on downs.
Cincinnati would tack on a Seibert field goal with 12 seconds remaining to ice away the win, 27-17.
The Steelers loss was their third straight, and they failed to clinch the AFC North due to the loss. Pittsburgh record stands at 11-3 heading into a Week 16 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field.