Bengals 7

(2-11, 1-6 away)

Steelers 23

(10-3, 4-2 home)

Coverage: CBS

1:00 PM ET, December 12, 2010

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA 

1 2 3 4 T
CIN 7 0 0 07
PIT 0 10 3 1023

Top Performers

Passing: B. Roethlisberger (PIT) - 258 YDS

Rushing: R. Mendenhall (PIT) - 18 CAR, 66 YDS

Receiving: H. Ward (PIT) - 8 REC, 115 YDS

Steelers return two INTs for TDs as Bengals lose 10th straight

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Carson Palmer talked all week about how former college teammate Troy Polamalu is the NFL's best defensive player. Then Palmer went out and helped make a strong argument that Polamalu is exactly that.

Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley returned interceptions for Pittsburgh's only touchdowns and the first-place Steelers sent Cincinnati to a franchise record-tying 10th consecutive defeat, winning 23-7 on Sunday.

The Steelers (10-3) couldn't get into the end zone on offense despite dominating the time of possession -- a 9 1/2-minute drive in the second half produced no scoring -- but it didn't matter as they closed in on a playoff spot by playing just well enough to beat the Bengals (2-11).

Palmer threw three interceptions, two to Polamalu, as Cincinnati matched the David Shula-coached 1993 Bengals by losing 10 consecutive games in the same season. The overall franchise record is 11 consecutive defeats from 1992-93.

The Steelers keep seeing Polamalu make play after play like these. Unfortunately for Palmer, he does, too.

"He has talent like no one else," safety Ryan Clark said. "He's just making amazing plays right now."

Last week, Polamalu chopped the ball away from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in the fourth quarter, leading to Ben Roethlisberger's decisive TD pass to running back Isaac Redman and a 13-10 victory that gave Pittsburgh the AFC North lead.

This time, Polamalu cut in front of intended receiver Terrell Owens to intercept Palmer's pass and return it 45 yards for a touchdown, tying it at 7 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the first half. Both of Polamalu's career regular-season interception return touchdowns are against Palmer, who roomed with Polamalu while at Southern Cal. Polamalu had the other in 2004.

"I was just doing my job," Polamalu said. "I just happened to be in the right position."

Palmer and Owens talked briefly on the bench about an apparently incorrectly run pass route. An unhappy Palmer walked away from Owens after seemingly not being happy with the explanation.

"I'm not sure what happened with our guys," Palmer said. "When they keep showing the highlights over and over again, that's going to be dejection. Right now, it's just frustration. I don't know if anybody has the words right now to describe what we're feeling as a team."

A lot of quarterbacks have the same feeling after being upstaged by Polamalu, who has helped lead the Steelers to four consecutive victories and an enviable position in the AFC playoff race.

"No one is playing as good as Troy Polamalu in football right now, in my opinion," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "When we need a play, he provides it."

The Steelers, up 13-7 after the long but unproductive drive that extended over much of the third quarter, sealed it with Woodley's 14-yard interception return early in the fourth quarter.

Polamalu also made an interception with two minutes remaining, his sixth of the season, after Cincinnati drove to the Steelers 16.

That pass also was intended for Owens, who came in needing only 39 yards to become only the third receiver in NFL history with 10 1,000-yard seasons but made only one catch for 22 yards.

"I was just out there running around," Owens said. "It wasn't until late in the game I got some looks. There's nothing I can do. ... I'm sick of losing."

Long before that, the Bengals drove 69 yards on their possession for Palmer's 1-yard scoring pass to Andrew Whitworth on a tackle-eligible play -- a drive kept going by Woodley's offside penalty. Whitworth is the first Bengals offensive lineman to catch a touchdown pass in 15 seasons.

Cincinnati's offense spent much of the rest of the game huddling along the sideline as Pittsburgh held the ball for 13:15 of the third quarter, even though leading rusher Rashard Mendenhall ended with a nondescript 66 yards on 18 carries.

The Steelers didn't get much out of all these drives, only three field goals by the perfect-so-far Shaun Suisham. He converted from the 23, 35 and 41. He is 9 for 9 with Pittsburgh.

"I think one drive we went 140 yards, we kept going back and forth and back and forth," Roethlisberger said of the 9 1/2-minute drive, which included three holding penalties. "It's not good enough because we have to score points. Field goals aren't good enough. Luckily our defense bailed us out."

Roethlisberger had an active if not entirely productive afternoon in a game played mostly in rain, although pregame forecasts of in-game snow and whipping winds proved inaccurate.

Roethlisberger, playing on a gimpy right foot and wearing a visor in the first half to protect his broken nose, took hits from three different defenders on one play before getting loose to complete a 9-yard pass to Mendenhall. He also improvised after a shotgun snap sailed high, scrambling for 13 yards to the 5 to set up Suisham's 23-yarder, which put Pittsburgh up 10-7 at the half.

Game notes

Polamalu reinjured an ankle on his first interception, but stayed in the game. ... The Steelers have two touchdowns on their past 30 possessions. ... Roethlisberger had thrown three TD passes in each of his previous three home games. ... Palmer has thrown 10 interceptions in five games. ... Bengals S Chinedum Ndukwe (knee) didn't return after being hurt making a tackle in the second quarter. ... Pittsburgh still hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. Cedric Benson had 19 yards on eight carries. ... The Steelers used a two-week road trip to resod Heinz Field's turf. ... The Steelers hadn't had two interception return touchdowns in a game since Dewayne Washington scored twice against Jacksonville in 1998. ... Steelers WR Hines Ward made eight catches for 115 yards.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs1418
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
Total Plays4964
Total Yards190354
Yards per play3.95.5
Total Drives109
Yards per pass
Interceptions thrown
Sacks-Yards Lost
Rushing Attempts
Yards per rush
Red Zone (Made-Att)1-20-3
Fumbles lost
Interceptions thrown
Defensive / Special Teams TDs02

Passing Leaders


Rushing Leaders


Receiving Leaders


Scoring Summary

cinTD10:02Andrew Whitworth 1 Yard Pass From Carson Palmer (Clint Stitser Kick is Good)
Drive info: 8 plays, 69 yds, 5:02
pitTD4:49Troy Polamalu 45 Yard Interception Return (Shaun Suisham Kick is Good)
Drive info: 1 plays, 47 yds, 0:35
pitFG0:24Shaun Suisham 23 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 13 plays, 75 yds, 2:00
pitFG8:38Shaun Suisham 35 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 10 plays, 54 yds, 6:26
pitTD12:27Lamarr Woodley 14 Yard Interception Return (Shaun Suisham Kick is Good)
Drive info: 1 plays, 14 yds, 0:00
pitFG5:34Shaun Suisham 41 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 7 plays, 45 yds, 4:16

Research Notes

The Bengals lost their 10th straight game on Sunday, tied for the longest single-season losing streak in the last 30 years. The team also lost 10 straight games during the 1993 season. That team finished 3-13.
Carson Palmer completed 7-of-9 passes with two skills players in the backfield, including a 1-yard touchdown pass to offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth. With one player in the backfield, Palmer was 13-for-23 with three interceptions and a 28.3 passer rating.
LaMarr Woodley had a interception return for TD and 2 sacks vs the Bengals. He is the 2nd Steeler in the last 50 years with an Int return TD and at least 2 sacks. Joey Porter had 2 sacks and an Int return TD Sept. 7, 2006 vs Miami.

ESPN Stats & Information