8:30 PM ET, December 15, 2013
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
PITTSBURGH -- For all their precocious talent, the Cincinnati Bengals are still trying to figure out this "winning-in-December-and-beyond" thing.
The Pittsburgh Steelers provided another important lesson along the way for the burgeoning AFC North power: Be ready or be humbled.
Antonio Brown caught a touchdown pass and returned a punt for a score in a 64-second span in the first quarter and the Steelers overpowered the Bengals 30-20 on Sunday night.
Shaun Suisham added three field goals for the Steelers (6-8), who built a 24-point lead and hardly looked like a team playing out the string.
"It's always great when you dictate the game and play ahead and not play catch up," Brown said.
The victory kept Pittsburgh's ever-so faint postseason hopes alive even if simply avoiding the franchise's first losing season in a decade is a considerably more attainable goal.
"We're just trying to show people the guys on this team, the coaches, they still want to play and they have a lot of fight left in them," Steelers safety Ryan Clark said.
Andy Dalton completed 25 of 44 for 230 yards and two second-half touchdowns, but Cincinnati (9-5) never recovered after getting staggered early at frigid Heinz Field.
"We didn't make anything happen," Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis said. "We didn't make any plays, create any opportunities."
Looking to move closer to a third straight playoff berth and perhaps grab the inside track on the No. 2 seed in the AFC, the Bengals were undone by a series of miscues on special teams and an offense that didn't get going until it was much too late.
"It's tough, for sure, because we had everything in front of us," Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green said. "We could have had ourselves set up in a great position if we could have come out here and won today. But, at least we have these last two games at home, and with the way we play at home I feel confident that we're going to win them back in Cincinnati."
Bell scored two plays after Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber dropped a snap while standing near the goal line after the Bengals' first possession. Pittsburgh's Will Allen dropped Huber at the 1 and Bell bulled into the end zone on second down for his sixth touchdown of the season.
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Cincinnati had more issues on the ensuing kickoff.
Officials ruled Cedric Peerman called for a fair catch at the Cincinnati 9, wiping out a lengthy return. The Bengals eventually punted, setting up the Steelers with a short field. Pittsburgh went 47 yards in eight plays, with Roethlisberger buying enough time for Brown to get open for a 12-yard touchdown strike to make it 14-0.
Brown's early work wasn't done. Cincinnati punted yet again and Brown took it 67 yards right up the middle, breaking a tackle at midfield on his way to the second punt return for a score in his four-year career for Pittsburgh's third touchdown of the quarter.
Huber took a hard hit from Pittsburgh's Terence Garvin during the return. The punter was down on the field for several minutes before walking straight to the Cincinnati locker room with a fractured jaw. Cincinnati kicker Mike Nugent took over Huber's punting duties.
Pittsburgh extended its lead to 24-0 before the Bengals steadied themselves with a 47-yard touchdown drive capped by Giovani Bernard's 1-yard run. The Steelers responded late in the half with Suisham's 45-yard field goal by to give them their biggest halftime lead of the season.
"You get offense and defense rolling, we think we're a real good team," Pittsburgh safety Ike Taylor said. "We've just got to get consistent."
Suisham's third field goal pushed Pittsburgh's advantage to 30-7 before the Bengals responded with Dalton's 1-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Eifert.
Dalton found Marvin Jones for a 13-yard score on fourth-and-5 with 5:51 to play, but Dalton's 2-point conversion attempt was batted down, keeping the deficit at 10 points.
Cincinnati got the ball back one more time, and Dalton's long heave to Green on fourth down fell incomplete.
"It was a snowball effect," Cincinnati center Kyle Cook said. "It's tough when you're all bundled up like that to start the game, and then the next thing you know you're down 21-0. So, that makes it tough to get going and come back from that deficit."
The crowd of 45,873 was the smallest in the 13-year history of Heinz Field. ... Brown caught five passes for 66 yards and a score and now has 95 receptions on the season, tied for second-most in team history. ... Bengals linebacker James Harrison, making his first appearance in Pittsburgh since leaving the Steelers to sign with Cincinnati in the offseason, left in the first quarter with a concussion.
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 15: Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers rushes against the Cincinnati Bengals...(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from Penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||4.2||4.7|
Comp - Att
Yards per pass
Sacks - Yards Lost
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||3-3||2-4|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||1|
|TD||09:58||Le'Veon Bell 1 Yd Run (Shaun Suisham Kick)||0||7|
|TD||02:16||Antonio Brown 12 Yd Pass From Ben Roethlisberger (Shaun Suisham Kick)||0||14|
|TD||01:12||Antonio Brown 67 Yd Punt Return (Shaun Suisham Kick)||0||21|
|FG||09:36||Shaun Suisham 25 Yd||0||24|
|TD||05:14||Giovani Bernard 1 Yd Run (Mike Nugent Kick)||7||24|
|FG||01:14||Shaun Suisham 45 Yd||7||27|
|FG||06:18||Shaun Suisham 26 Yd||7||30|
|TD||14:09||Tyler Eifert 1 Yd Pass From Andy Dalton (Mike Nugent Kick)||14||30|
|TD||05:46||Marvin Jones 13 Yd Pass From Andy Dalton (Two-Point Pass Conversion Failed)||20||30|
Bengals tied a team record for points allowed in 1st quarter, with 21 points allowed on Sunday. They previously allowed 21 in a win over the Seahawks and 21 in a loss to the Bears in 1986
The Bengals sent four or fewer pass rushers on 20 of Ben Roethlisberger's 26 dropbacks (77%). Roethlisberger completed 85% of his passes against such pressure, his highest in a game in the two seasons. Andy Dalton, however, completed only half of his passes against four or fewer pass rushers, tied for his lowest in a game in the last two seasons. - Roethlisberger was 5-of-6 for 66 yards targeting Antonio Brown. Brown is the first player since 2001 to have five catches and 50 yards in each of his team's first 14 games of a season.[+]
Roethlisberger/Dalton vs 4 or Fewer Pass Rushers, Sunday
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