For mid-December it was a beautiful day for football in Cincinnati, OH as the Pittsburgh Steelers entered the game 7-5 looking to propel their record with a win over the 10-2 Cincinnati Bengals. There was plenty on the line for both teams. With a win, the Bengals would claim the AFC North division and a spot in the AFC Playoffs. For the Steelers, they desperately needed a victory to keep their playoff hopes alive of claiming their own spot in the AFC postseason.
Pittsburgh won the opening coin toss and elected to receive the football, and they wasted little time moving the ball into Cincinnati territory. A 31-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Markus Wheaton ignited the drive on third-and-one, and another big pass to Heath Miller extended the drive. A Roethlisberger pass to Antonio Brown moved the ball to the 2-yard line, and two plays later DeAngelo Williams punched the ball into the end zone for the touchdown. The Chris Boswell extra point gave the Steelers a 7-0 lead with 9:23 left in the first quarter.
The Bengals started their first drive at the 10-yard line after a block-in-the-back penalty, and Andy Dalton moved the team into Pittsburgh territory with relative ease. Aided by a personal foul on Steelers safety Mike Mitchell, Dalton looked to tight end Tyler Eifert to move the ball into the red-zone, but on 2nd-and-goal Dalton was picked off by Stephon Tuitt to give the ball back to the Steelers with 5:00 left in the opening frame.
Pittsburgh, who started the drive from their own 5-yard line, moved the ball into Cincinnati territory with a mix of DeAngelo Williams and Antonio Brown. Another person foul, this time on Antonio Brown, delayed the Steelers drive, and resulted in a Chris Boswell 42-yard field goal. The kick equated to 3-points off the Dalton turnover, and gave the Stelers a 10- lead with 12:33 left in the half.
Andy Dalton was ruled out for the game with a thumb injury to his throwing hand, and AJ McCarron took over as the Cincinnati starting quarterback. The chippy play continued as Antwon Blake was called for a late hit on A.J. Green moved the Bengals into Pittsburgh territory. The drive stalled, and Mike Nugent missed a 54-yard field goal which gave the ball back to Pittsburgh with great field position.
Roethlisberger and company continued to move the ball on the Cincinnati defense, and took the great field position and equated it to a 47-yard Boswell field goal to make the score 13-0 Pittsburgh with 7:00 left in the half. However, on McCarron's second possession he hit A.J. Green for a 66-yard touchdown. The Nugent extra point made the score 13-7 with 6:23 left in the second quarter.
The Steelers couldn't turn their fourth possession into points, and Jordan Berry pinned the Bengals at their own 2-yard line with 2:23 left in the half. McCarron couldn't manufacture a first down, and the Bengals punted the ball back to the Steelers with 1:04 left. Pittsburgh extended their lead to 16-7 after a short drive moved the ball into Boswell field goal range. The 47-yard field goal was Boswell's third of the game, and helped send the Steelers into halftime with a 9-point lead.
On the opening drive of the second half, and McCarron's second pass of the drive, James Harrison pressured the quarterback and forced a quick throw which was intercepted by William Gay and returned it for a touchdown. The Boswell extra point made the score 23-7. McCarron, on his third possession, was able to move the Bengals into field goal range, and the Nugent 46-yard field goal cut into the Pittsburgh lead and made the score 23-10 with 10:10 left in the third quarter.
The Steelers were unable to move the football with their first possession of the second half, resulting in Jordan Berry's second punt of the game. Pittsburgh's defense forced a three-and-out, and on their next drive moved the ball into the Cincinnati territory, but again stalled and was forced to settle for another Chris Boswell field goal. The 31-yard field goal gave Pittsburgh a 16-10 lead with 14:56 left in the fourth quarter.
AJ McCarron and the Bengals didn't go down without a fight, and were able to hit some big chunk plays on their next drive and moved the ball into the Pittsburgh 10-yard line. Pittsburgh's defense stood tall and forced the Bengals to settle for a 26-yard Nugent field goal to cut the lead to 26-13 with 10:06 left in the quarter.
The Steelers were moving the football with ease when Ben Roethlisberger threw deep to Martavis Bryant, but was picked off by Reggie Nelson. McCarron and company started their drive at their 5-yard line, but Robert Golden intercepted McCarron to give the Steelers the ball back with an opportunity to seal a victory with a score. DeAngelo Williams took care of business with his second touchdown of the game giving Pittsburgh at 32-13 lead. The Boswell extra point made the score 33-13 with 3:49 left in the game.
Cincinnati did drive down the field and eventually score a touchdown with 1:03 left in the game, but it wouldn't change the outcome of the game and the final score would read Pittsburgh 33, Cincinnati 20.
The Pittsburgh Steelers advanced their record to 8-5 and will play the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field next Sunday in Week 15, while the Cincinnati Bengals move to 10-3 and will have to wait another week to clinch the AFC North Championship.