PITTSBURGH _ The Steelers have been beating the Bengals this way for years and they did it again Sunday by 29-14 at Heinz Field to drop the Bengals to 2-4 and take control of the AFC North at 5-2.
With the Bengals offense falling into a coma after it tied the game at 14 when head coach Marvin
Lewis went for it on fourth-and-one from the Steelers one with 7:12 left in the second quarter, Pittsburgh methodically chewed up the clock and the league's second-best defense in the Heinz Field din with the NFL's best running back and needed only four catches for 65 yards from wide receiver Antonio Brown, the league's leading receiver.
The Bengals proved you can't tackle running back Le'Veon Bell with one arm or high as the Steelers raised their record to 10-0 when he carries at least 25 times. On Sunday he racked up 134 yards on 35 carries, courtesy of the Bengals getting one first down in the second half.
And that's what has hampered them in the 13 games against the Steelers in the Green-Dalton Era. Offense, They have never scored more than 21 points and that's why they are now 3-11 against them. All the Steelers needed was five straight field goals by Chris Boswell in the wake of the 14-14 stalemate.
After being tied at 14, the Bengals punted twice and quarterback Andy Dalton threw interceptions on back-to-back drives and when the third quarter turned into the fourth quarter the Steelers had kept the ball for more than 10 minutes in the third quarter and had a 26-14 lead. The Bengals got just 19 yards after it was 14-14.
There were two more punts after three-and-outs on a day the Bengals were dogged by turnovers (two), penalties (five), and mental mistakes (in all three phases).The Steelers' last score came when the Bengals failed to cover wide receiver Darius Heyward Bey split wide on a punt and personal protector, safety Robert Golden, took the snap and hit the wide open Bay down the right sideline for 43 yards with 6:15 left in the game.
On a day after they converted three of their first four third downs, they whiffed on their last seven and no had carries for rookie running back Joe Mixon and no catches for wide receiver A.J. Green in a curious second half.
Dalton had fired up a triple-digit passer rating in the first half the Steelers had taken a 20-14 lead hitting 11 of 18 passes for 106 yards, but he threw his first two road interceptions of the season in the third quarter, both on tipped balls. The final stat line of 17-for-31 for 140 yards ended up with a 63.2 passer rating. Meaning he got sacked four times in a second half he was six for 12 for 36 yards.
The first pick came when Dalton led Green a bit too far on a slant and when Green couldn't haul it in with his right hand, the ball bounced up and was picked by cornerback Joe Haden at the Bengals 40.
Then on the next series Dalton threw it into a crowd for rookie wide receiver Josh Malone's first NFL target in his first game. Safety Sean Davis unloaded on him and cornerback William Gay caught the carom to put the Bengals at the Steelers 41.
But all the Steelers could get out of it was two field goals as the defense stayed feisty. Cornerback William Jackson knocked the ball out of Brown's hands in the end zone on third-and-one and left end Carlos Dunlap forced Lewis to win a challenge when he stopped running back Terrelle Watson on fourth-and-one.
But the Bengals did nothing with the ball and this is what happens when Green can't get the ball and the other guys have trouble beating one-on-one. Green had three catches for 41 yards with 59 seconds left in the first quarter. It's also what happens when you can't or won't run the ball or both. Mixon had 48 yards on seven carries with eight minutes left in the second quarter but no carries after that.
In the meantime the Bengals' pass protection imploded late in third quarter allowing their four sacks on five plays in the torturous last quarter and Mixon gave up one to blitzing linebacker Bud Dupree and added another one when he steamed up the middle untouched on a stunt.
So the NFL's two best pass defenses met Sunday and quite naturally at halftime Dalton and Roethlisberger had already combined for four touchdown passes and 299 yards as Pittsburgh took a 20-14 lead.
The problem is the Steelers' Killer Bees took control of the game late in the half. Roethlisberger had a near perfect 154.4 passer rating, Bell combined for 109 yards from scrimmage as their leading rusher and receiver, and one of Brown's three catches went for a touchdown. Roethlisberger sifted for 117.4 at the end of the day, throwing it just 24 times and completing a mere 14 for 224 yards.
The Bengals defense, which came into the game allowing just 16.6 points and 262 yards per game, gave up 251 in the half after getting ravaged by some miscues in the Steelers' last two series of the half. But they held from the Pittsburgh 4 and the Pittsburgh 6 to force two field goals in the last two minutes of the half.
The first mistake came in a 14-14 game late in the second quarter Roethlisberger, hitting 12 of passes 16 for 193 yards in the half against a Bengals defense allowing 160 passing yards per game, faced a third-and-three from the Steelers 28. Bengals rookie pass rusher Carl Lawson was flagged for being in the neutral zone and two snaps later Roethlisberger hit Bell on a dump pass that he turned into a 42-yard play when his jump cut shot him past linebacker Vincent Rey and he stiff-armed cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
But the Bengals survived linebacker Vontaze Burfict's foray into the neutral zone when on third down from the 8 cornerback William Jackson stayed on the hip of Brown
Dalton hit 11 of 18 passes for 106 yards in the half against the NFL's best pass defense for a 114.6 passer rating. But the offense was no help on the next series with three timeouts and 1:50 left. They went three-and-out with running back Giovani Bernard getting blown up on an in complete pass on first down.
The Steelers got the ball back and took advantage of a too-many-men on the field penalty when tackle Geno Atkins couldn't get off the field. The Bengals double-teamed Brown much of the half, but when he ran by Kirkpatrick, Kirkpatrick grabbed him for a 34-yard pass interference penalty at the Bengals 5, but the Bengals held.
The Bengals tied at 14 with 7:12 left in the second quarter on Dalton's play-action fake to Mixon on fourth-and-one from the Steelers 1 and a flip to wide-open tight end Tyler Kroft.
Mixon, having his best day as a pro, ran it close for 17 yards and wide receiver Brandon LaFell made two tough catches as Dalton sucked it up when he got up limping after a hit on an incomplete flea flicker. The Bengals were uncharacteristically brilliant on third down against the Steelers in the half (three of six) and the big play in the drive came on third-and-eight with Andre Smith at left tackle and Jake Fisher at right tackle when slot receiver Alex Erickson got 22 yards on an arrow over the middle.
They also got two major-league throws from Dalton on third down on their first scoring drive, the last on third-and-goal from the Steelers six when Dalton LaFell running along on the back line of the end zone beating safety Mike Mitchell to tie at seven with 10 seconds left in the first quarter.
On the first two drives the Bengals rolled out left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, Fisher at right tackle, and right guard Trey Hopkins with Hopkins wearing a knee brace in his first start since the opener. And they gave Dalton plenty of time on third-and-four from the Steelers 23 for Dalton to hit Green for 16 yards on a laser to the sideline that beat cornerback Mike Hilton. Green, the NFL's second leading receiver, ended the half and game with three catches for 41 yards.
The 53-yard drive had been set up on Kevin Huber's punt to the Pittsburgh 10 and a three-and-out courtesy of Lawson's hit on Roethlisberger that led to an incompletion on third-and-six.
Nearly half the yards in the drive came on Mixon's 25-yard run. Mixon started right, but switched gears a la Bell and veered off the left side for his longest run as a pro.
The Steelers didn't blink in their opening drive even though the Bengals were set on double teaming Brown and gumming up Bell.
But Brown had two catches for 26 yards, including a nine-yard touchdown pass out a bunch formation where he beat cornerback Darqueze Dennard on a slant off the line of scrimmage. Bell had 23 receiving and 27 rushing yards, the big catch coming on the third play of the game when Roethlisberger, hitting his three passes in the drive, found a wide open Bell in the middle of the field on a mere check-down pass. He also got them into the red zone on an eight-yard run on first down when he took advantage of Burfict's blitz.
Then a miscommunication allowed rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to score the Steelers' last touchdown when he was left wide open on a 31-yard pass.
Cincinnati Bengals travel to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 7 of the regular season.