Depleted Steelers beat Bengals, 24-17
CINCINNATI — The top two running backs were gone. So were two offensive linemen. All that the Steelers had left was Ben Roethlisberger, some backup runners and one of the NFL’s top defenses.
In Cincinnati, that’s plenty.
Roethlisberger threw for a touchdown, overcoming his end zone interception and costly fumble, and Pittsburgh’s defense clamped down on the Bengals’ Dalton-to-Green connection for a 24-17 victory Sunday night.
Third-year running back Jonathan Dwyer made his first career start and ran for a career-high 122 yards, including a 32-yard gain that put it away in the final seconds. Shaun Suisham kicked field goals of 42, 47 and 42 yards.
For the Steelers (3-3), it was a significant win under tough conditions. Their first road win of the season moved them into second place into the AFC North behind Baltimore (5-2), which lost to Houston 43-13 earlier Sunday.
“It puts us right there in the hunt,” safety Ryan Clark said.
Cincinnati (3-4) wasted yet another chance to show it can keep up with the division’s best. The Bengals are 0-6 the last two seasons against Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
This was their best chance yet to break through, but they couldn’t do it against the team that always seems to win on their home field.
The Steelers improved to 12-2 at Paul Brown Stadium, where thousands of towel-waving fans make them feel at home. They have won their last five overall against their AFC North rival and 10 of the last 12.
And once again, the Bengals could blame themselves.
Andy Dalton’s slip-out-of-the-hand interception set up Roethlisberger’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller and a tying 2-point conversion to the tight end with 24 seconds left in the half. Chris Rainey’s 11-yard touchdown run put the Steelers ahead early in the fourth quarter, and the injury fill-ins finished them off.
“I’m proud of those guys,” said Roethlisberger, who was 27 of 37 for 278 yards. “Always the thing we say is, ‘Next man up.’
“I’m proud of the way those young guys stepped up. There never was a doubt they would do that.”
The Bengals got the better of it at the outset, pulling ahead 14-3 by getting their running game moving behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis and turning a fumble by Roethlisberger into a touchdown. If they were going to end that streak of futility against the Steelers, this was their chance.
Dalton’s only glaring mistake made the difference.
He tried to pull his arm back on a pass, but the ball slipped out of his hand and deflected off Bengals lineman Kevin Zeitler to Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley at the Cincinnati 29-yard line with 1:23 left in the half. That set up Roethlisberger’s tying TD pass and conversion.
Dalton was 14 of 28 for only 105 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He completed only one pass to Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green, an 8-yard touchdown after Roethlisberger’s fumble.
The Steelers’ 31st-ranked running game was missing Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman, as well as center Maurkice Pouncey and right tackle Marcus Gilbert. Rookie Mike Adams made his first start in Gilbert’s spot.
Plus, safety Troy Polamalu was inactive for the fourth time in the last five games with a calf injury.
That put a lot on Roethlisberger, who usually does well in his home state — 15-2 all-time in Cleveland and Cincinnati — but has rarely been so short-handed.
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