It was far than perfect conditions at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, OH where the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals squared off for the third time of the 2015-2016 season. Rain showers soaked the turf, and only got worse as the game progressed. Nonetheless, both teams had to play in the conditions, and the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger started the game with the football after the Bengals won the toss and chose to defer to the second half.
Believe it or not, the first quarter encompassed nothing but failed offensive series and a punting dual between Jordan Berry and Kevin Huber. The first quarter came and went without any score, but the Steelers had moved the ball into Cincinnati territory to start the second frame of the game.
Despite the Steelers offense moving the ball to the edge of Chris Boswell's range, on a 3rd and 6 play, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked by Reggie Nelson, forcing another Berry punt.
Neither team did anything offensively until Antwon Blake intercepted an AJ McCarron pass and moved the ball into Cincinnati territory. After some consistent runs by Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman, a Roethlisberger pass to Antonio Brown moved the ball into Boswell's field goal range. Boswell's 39-yard field goal gave the Steelers a 3-0 lead with 2:27 left in the first half.
After the Boswell field goal, the Bengals went 3-and-out and gave the ball back to Pittsburgh with 2:00 left in the half. The Steelers drove into the Cincinnati red-zone, but had to settle with a 30-yard Boswell field goal to make the score 6-0 with 33 seconds left in the half. Cincinnati would kneel out the remainder of the time and settle to get the football after the halftime break.
To start the second half, Cincinnati finally got a big offensive play by Jeremy Hill, but the play did nothing to impact the game as Jarvis Jones stripped AJ McCarron and Cam Thomas recovered at midifled. When the Steelers got the ball, an end around to Martavis Bryant moved the offense into the red-zone, but again had to settle for another Boswell field goal. The 34-yard field goal gave Pittsburgh a 9-0 lead with 10:09 left in the third quarter.
After another Cincinnati three-and-out, Pittsburgh got into the Cincinnati red-zone again, this time by a big catch and run by Antonio Brown. Roethlisberger then hit Martavis Bryant in the back corner of the end zone with a spectacular catch to make the score 15-0. Pittsburgh went for the two-point conversion, but the pass intended for Markus Wheaton failed, and the score remained 15-0 with 5:00 left in the third quarter.
After another decent Cincinnati drive, Giovani Bernard caught a pass in the flag and was hit by Ryan Shazier. Bernard fumbled the football which was recovered by Shazier giving Pittsburgh the football with 1:45 left in the third quarter. The Steelers were unable to move the football, and on third down Ben Roethlisberger was injured when he was sacked by Vontaze Burfict and was forced to leave the game.
A poor Jordan Berry punt gave the Bengals great field position, and after Will Allen was flagged for defensive pass interference on a pass to A.J. Green, Jeremy Hill punched a run into the end zone to give the Bengals their first points of the game. With 14:30 left in the game, it was 15-7 Pittsburgh.
Landry Jones did nothing in his first series leading off the offense, and after another Berry punt, McCarron led the Bengals into field goal range and a 36-yard Mike Nugent field goal cut the lead to 15-10 with 5:12 left in the fourth quarter.
Despite Roethlisberger returning to the sideline, Jones remained in the game, but couldn't convert a first down, and gave Cincinnati the football back in Pittsburgh territory with 3:28 left in the 4th quarter. McCarron withstood the Steelers' pass rush on more than one occasion, and on third and seven he hit A.J. Green for a Cincinnati touchdown to give the Bengals a 16-15 lead with 1:50 left in the game. The Bengals went for two, but failed to convert, keeping their lead to one point.
On the first play from scrimmage, Landry Jones threw a pass which was intercepted by Vontaze Burfict, but on the next Bengals play Jeremy Hill fumbled the ball which was recovered by Ross Cockrell. Rather than Jones coming back onto the field, Roethlisberger re-entered the game for the final drive.
After a 4th and 3 conversion to Antonio Brown, a Roethlisberger pass over the middle to Brown resulted in an unsportsmanlike penalty on Vontaze Burfict for hitting him high and late. Another Adam Jones penalty resulted in the ball being moved 15-yards closer, and it resulted in the go-ahead Chris Boswell field goal. The final kickoff was simply a formality with 14 seconds left in the game, and the Bengals' playoff struggles continued as the Steelers won 18-16, and will play the Denver Broncos in the divisional round next week.