Steelers Vs. Bengals: Pittsburgh Defense Smothers Cincinnati, 23-7

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Steelers Defeated Bengals 23-7: Game Highlights And Postgame Quotes

It was far from pretty, but when the final second of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Week 14 win over the Cincinnati Bengals ticked away, the Steelers had pieced together a fairly impressive performance. The offense struggled to find the endzone, but Ben Roethlisberger & Co. were efficient on 3rd down (7-of-15). Penalties and sacks stalled their momentum on several occasions. But it didn’t much matter on a day when the Steelers’ defense scored two touchdowns on interceptions returns by Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley.

In case you missed the action, here are links to some of the game’s highlights, as well as postgame remarks from members of the 10-3 Steelers.

Game highlights

Troy Polamalu Interception Return

LaMarr Woodley Interception Return

Steelers Postgame Press Conference

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NFL Power Rankings: Steelers Likely To Stay At No. 3

When most outlets post their NFL power rankings tomorrow, the Steelers are likely to stay at No. 3. Both SB Nation and ESPN had the Steelers in that spot last week, behind the Patriots and Falcons (or Falcons and Patriots). With all three teams winning convincingly, that’s unlikely to change.

The real intrigue will be in what goes on after that. Both outlets had the Ravens at No. 4, where they’ll stay with a win over the Texans tonight. The Saints, too, are likely to stick at No. 5 after thumping the Rams.

But what about the Jets and Bears? The Jets were at No. 6 in the ESPN rankings and No. 9 in SB Nation’s after an embarrassing loss to the Patriots last week, and this week they dropped another one, this time to the Dolphins. They’re still 9-4, but they probably have to fall to somewhere around No. 10. The Bears, who were at No. 8 in ESPN’s rankings and No. 6 in SB Nation’s, lost to a good team and probably won’t fall too far. With games left against the Jets and on the road against the Packers, though, they’ve got their work cut out for them.

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NFL Playoff Picture: Patriots Clinch Playoff Berth, Steelers Likely To Do So Soon

The Steelers didn’t clinch a playoff berth with their win today, since the Colts and Jaguars won, but they now have a 1.5 game lead on the AFC North, with the second-place Ravens set to play the Texans Monday night. The Patriots clinched a playoff berth by crushing the Bears, 36-7, with Tom Brady piling up 369 yards, 151 of which were to Deion Branch.

The Chargers shut out the Chiefs, leaving Kansas City at 8-5 and San Diego at 7-6 in the AFC West. In the AFC East, the New York Jets lost to the Dolphins and are now at 9-4. This means that the Steelers are currently in line for a bye in the first week of the playoffs, and they can feel pretty good about getting one if they beat the Jets next week.

So while the Steelers didn’t clinch a playoff berth this week, they have to be feeling very comfortable about getting one – a win in any of the next three weeks would clinch it, and don’t forget that two of their last three games are against the Panthers and Browns. With no team above 8-5 in either the South or the West, it continues to look extremely likely that the wild cards will go to the second-place finishers in the North and Central.

Here’s how the AFC playoff field would look if the season ended today:

First-week byes:
Patriots, Steelers

Other divisional champs:
Jaguars, Chiefs

Wild cards:
Jets, Ravens

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Steelers Vs. Bengals: Second Half Notes - Pittsburgh Defense Smothers Cincinnati, 23-7

The Steelers (now 10-3) dominated the Bengals, winning 23-7, largely on the strength of their ferocious defense, which accounted for Pittsburgh's only two touchdowns of the afternoon. The Steelers outclassed Cincinnati in total yards (354 to 190) and time of possession (34:28 to 25:29) and succeeded in protecting the football while forcing three turnovers.

  • Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the Pittsburgh offense came out swinging in the second half. Roethlisberger went 5-for-6 for 48 yards on the Steelers' 75-yard scoring drive, connecting on first down passes with Hines Ward and Antonio Brown. Credit head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians for making the necessary adjustments during halftime. Although Roethlisberger had to evade pass rushers from time to time, by and large, Pittsburgh's pass protection was worlds improved since their porous performance in the first half. It's also worth mentioning that Roethlisberger opted to remove his visor during halftime, leaving his broken nose exposed. During the first half, Roethlisberger was constantly seen wiping the visor clean with his sleeve, as the rain obstructed his view.
  • Nursing a 6-point lead and looking to protect their banged-up quarterback, Pittsburgh ran a lot of power rushes and quick timing routes in the passing game during their second drive of the half. Rashard Mendenhall has had to gain some tough yards all year, and this contest was no different (3.7 ypc). That said, it was great to see the Steelers protect Roethlisberger, rest their defense, and try to shorten the game, even if it wasn't the most dynamic or entertaining offense to watch. The methodical drive appeared to stall after consecutive holding penalties on tackle Jonathan Scott and tight end Matt Spaeth, but on 2nd-&-a-mile, Roethlisberger threw a gorgeous 29-yard strike to Hines Ward, bailing out the two depth players. While it didn't result in any points, the drive ran over nine minutes off the clock. 
  • Speaking of Ward, he had a vintage performance: 8 catches, 115 yards, the usual awesome blocking downfield. After averaging less than 30 yards over the last six contests, it was great to see the ageless veteran produce the way he did. Oh, yeah - he also moved past Redskins great Art Monk for 10th all-time in career receptions (944). Way to go, Hines.
  • More love for Arians: you can't really say this guy didn't pull out all the stops against Cincinnati's defense. Sure, the first half flea flicker wasn't especially pretty, but Arians mixed it up in the second half, even calling an option from Antwaan Randle El, lining up in the Wildcat formation, to Mike Wallace - good for 12 yards. With these two plays, along with an odd quarterback draw in the first half, Pittsburgh proves that it's an unpredictable offense...even if it doesn't always work.
  • Cincinnati's next drive lasted just one play, as Carson Palmer completely stared down Chad Ochocinco, failing to account for LaMarr Woodley's underneath coverage. The linebacker snagged the ball out of the air and took it 14 yards for Pittsburgh's second pick-six of the day (video). The Steelers' best offense continued to be their defense. It was Palmer's 17th interception of the season. The Bengals have Palmer locked up through 2014, but I can't imagine they won't be looking to go in another direction at quarterback soon, especially with a presumed change in the coaching regime. For his part, Woodley had a truly terrific game, notching 5 tackles, 2 sacks, and the pick-six. 
  • Kicker Shaun Suisham continues to excel after replacing Jeff Reed. He went 3-for-3 despite the afternoon's sloppy conditions, including a 41-yarder. On the season, Suisham is a perfect 8-for-8, five of which have been from at least 40 yards out.
  • Troy Polamalu closed the game out with another interception, making this afternoon's victory his second career two-interception game. I'm really not sure why he tried to lateral it on the return, though, especially since he could've simply kneeled it in the end zone. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau gave Polamalu a talking to following the play - kind of weird, when you consider that it was an interception - but was seen moments later hugging the safety. Kind of a nice moment from a coordinator who many players view as a family member. After two consecutive weeks of dominance, expect Polamalu to be in the discussion for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
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Steelers Vs. Bengals: First Half Notes - Pittsburgh Leads 10-7 At Halftime

After one half, the Pittsburgh Steelers lead division rival Cincinnati Bengals, 10-7. Pittsburgh is eying the AFC North crown after taking out the Baltimore Ravens last week. 

  • Huge pass interference call on Pittsburgh corner Ike Taylor on the Bengals' first drive. He and Chad Ochocinco were jostling for position the whole way, but Taylor was getting as grabby as the TSA. Although it was only a 19-yard penalty, it gave Cincinnati the ball on Pittsburgh's goal line. They scored on the next play, as Carson Palmer dumped it off in play action to tackle Andrew Whitworth, who was lined up as an eligible receiver. Obviously, you never like to see the opposition score against the Steelers, but it's still kind of cool to see someone that size in the end zone.
  • What is with Michael Jordan's 'stache (video)? I can only assume Hanes ran a focus group where someone was like, "I really like your underwear...but I'd feel much better about buying it from someone who looked like Hitler." 
  • In the play-by-play, it'll come up as a 9-yard gain from Ben Roethlisberger to Rashard Mendenhall, but their improvised flea flicker was really something to behold. When Mendenhall hit the hole, then chucked it back to his quarterback, Roethlisberger was already swarmed by opposing defenders. He broke at least two tackles, and managed to chuck it back to Mendenhall - it's like the two were playing catch in the back yard - who spun away from a defender and almost converted for the first down. Well done, gentlemen. Just we drew it up.
  • If there was a league-wide competition for most injuries, you can bet the Steelers and the Bengals would be topping the list. Can't help but sympathize with Pittsburgh's division rival when you look at how truly extensive their injury report really is. Sheesh. 
  • Thank goodness safety Troy Polamalu scored on his interception return (video), because Pittsburgh's offense sure wasn't getting it done. Although he came up limping after the play, I'd be surprised if it was anything more than a bruised knee - on the replay, nothing bent, twisted, or sustained any sort of visible impact. Definitely not the first time (video) Polamalu's gotten the best of Carson Palmer, his former USC roommate. Could this mark the second week in a row that Polamalu single-handedly secures a Steelers win? We'll see.
  • With all the coverage sacks this season, it's getting more difficult for me to blame Roethlisberger for holding onto the ball for too long - a huge part of his game, regardless - and more tempting for me to wonder if his receivers just aren't getting open downfield. I can't tell you how many times opposing teams have rushed just three or four, dropped everyone into coverage, and still sacked Roethlisberger. In one half of football this afternoon, the Bengals - a team with an almost nonexistent pass rush this season - have brought him down twice and harassed him on countless other dropbacks.
  • Amazing one-handed, leaping grab by Antwaan Randle El, especially given the rainy conditions at Heinz Field. The 22-yard catch gave Pittsburgh the ball on the Bengals' 18, eventually setting up a 23-yard field goal. Randle El has been an afterthought in the passing game, after the emergence of rookies Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, but it's nice to have a veteran guy who can make plays like that deep in your depth chart.
  • Roethlisberger is having a hell of a game, despite the so-so stat line (9-for-17, 99 yards). He's turning a lot of broken plays into first downs, through the air and on the ground (3 rushes for 23 yards), as per his usual. That said, his decision to spike the ball on 1st & goal with the first half drawing to a close makes no sense whatsoever. I guess he's trying to preserve his final timeout, but you simply cannot give up a play if you're not in four-down territory. If you really want to save time, go ahead and use the timeout - that's what it's there for. Or better yet, run a play. Either way, there is no reason to spike it, effectively leaving you with two tries to get it into the end zone, instead of one. That's the kind of inexcusable decision-making that a) never gets questioned by sports broadcasters and b) leaves points on the field.
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Week 14 NFL Injuries, Steelers Vs. Bengals: Pittsburgh In Good Shape For Sunday

This afternoon’s injury report shows that the Steelers are in good shape for their game on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Only three players missed practice: defensive end Aaron Smith (triceps), tight end Heath Miller (concussion) and safety Troy Polamalu (Achilles). Miller probably isn’t going to play and Smith definitely isn’t, and we knew that days ago. Polamalu should be fine for Sunday; his ankle continues to bother him, but he’s missed a lot of practice in the last few weeks without missing the games, so missing another one shouldn’t be a warning sign.

Flozell Adams (ankle) returned to practice today after missing yesterday, and Isaac Redman (ankle), limited in practice yesterday, was at full participation today. Steve McLendon was limited in practice today with a stinger.

Adams says he’ll be ready to go Sunday; Heath Miller isn’t yet sure whether he’ll play or not. Smith, meanwhile, won’t play in the regular season but could be back for the playoffs.

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Steelers Vs. Bengals: NFL Week 14 Game Capsules

For as exciting and important as last Sunday night's win was for the Pittsburgh Steelers, it won't mean all that much if they stumble this weekend against the sad-sack Cincinnati Bengals. Something tells me they'll be just fine against Cincinnati, losers of their past nine games. Here's your Week 14 game capsule, replete with series history figures and facts, as well as up-to-date season stats for both squads.

CINCINNATI BENGALS (2-10) AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS (9-3)

SERIES

 

BENGALS

STEELERS

SERIES LEADER

 

48-32

STREAKS

 

6 of past 8

COACHES VS. OPP.

Lewis: 5-11

Tomlin: 5-2

LAST WEEK

L 34-30 vs. Saints

W 13-10 at Ravens

LAST GAME

11/8/10: Steelers 27 at Bengals 21. Pittsburgh WR Mike Wallace has 5 catches for 110 yards, including 39-yard TD. Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall adds 99 rush yards & 1 TD.

LAST GAME AT SITE

11/15/09: Bengals 18, Steelers 12. Cincinnati K Shayne Graham kicks 4 2nd-half FGs as Bengals sweep season series vs. Pittsburgh for 1st time since '98.

BROADCAST

CBS (1:00 PM ET): Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf. SIRIUS: 130 (Cin.), 126 (Pit.). XM: 105 (Pit.).

 

STATS

PASSING

C. Palmer: 280-465-3,009-20-15-80.1

Roethlisberger: 159-258-2,078-13-5-95.7

RUSHING

Benson: 237-837-3.5-6

Mendenhall: 257-1,007-3.9-9

RECEIVING

Owens: 71 (T3C)-961-13.5-9 (T3C)

Wallace: 41-868-21.2-8

OFFENSE

328.0

330.6

TAKE/GIVE

-3

+11 (3L)

DEFENSE

347.3

301.6 (3C)

SACKS

Dunlap (R): 4.5

Harrison: 10 (T3L)

INTs

Hall: 4 (T3C)

Polamalu: 4 (T3C)

PUNTING

Huber: 43.0

Kapinos (Ind.): 44.5

KICKING

Stitser: 10 (1/2 PAT; 3/3 FG)

Suisham: 25 (7/7 PAT; 6/6 FG)

 

 

Stay tuned here and at Behind the Steel Curtain for Steelers coverage throughout the week as the NFL regular season enters the home stretch.

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Week 14 NFL Injuries, Steelers Vs. Bengals: Heath Miller Unlikely To Play

The SteelersWeek 14 Injury Report is out. Here’s the damage. Aaron Smith (triceps) continues to sit out, as expected, although the team has allowed him to begin lifting weights, and he could be back by the time the playoffs roll around. Tight end Heath Miller (concussion) missed practice and probably won’t play against the Bengals. (Another tight end, Matt Spaeth, is recovering from his own concussion and should be ready to go this week.)

Troy Polamalu (Achilles) sat today, but I doubt that’s anything to worry about – he has missed a bunch of practice the past few weeks, but he certainly played well enough on Sunday. Flozell Adams (ankle) was out. Running back Isaac Redman was limited with ankle trouble. (Lots of ankle problems this week.)

And Hines Ward didn’t practice for unspecified reasons, although the injury report says they were “not injury-related.” We’ll see what that turns out to be.

Finally, these aren’t on the injury report, but punter Daniel Sepulveda is done for the season, and Ben Roethlisberger’s nose looks really ugly.

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AFC Playoff Scenarios, Week 14 Edition

Earlier, SB Nation Pittsburgh pointed out that the Pittsburgh Steelers were one of just four teams in the NFL that could qualify for the playoffs this coming weekend. Of the four, three are in the AFC (with the Falcons being the lone NFC team that can clinch its invitation to the postseason party in Week 14). Let's take a closer look at the different scenarios in which the Steelers, Patriots and Jets can qualify.

They are...

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Pittsburgh clinches a playoff spot with:

  1. PIT win + JAX loss or tie + NE win or tie + MIA loss or tie OR

  2. PIT win + IND loss or tie + NE win or tie + MIA loss or tie OR

  3. PIT win + IND loss or tie + NE win or tie + OAK loss or tie + SD loss or tie OR

  4. PIT win + IND loss or tie + MIA loss or tie + OAK loss or tie OR

  5. PIT tie + MIA loss or tie + OAK loss or tie + SD loss or tie + IND loss

There are other scenarios in which the Steelers may clinch a playoff spot if they clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker over certain teams this weekend.

 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

New England clinches a playoff spot with:

  1. NE win or tie OR

  2. MIA loss or tie + JAX loss or tie OR

  3. MIA loss or tie + IND loss or tie

There are other scenarios in which the Patriots may clinch a playoff spot if they clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker over certain teams this weekend.

 

NEW YORK JETS

New York Jets clinch a playoff spot with:

  1. NYJ win + SD loss or tie + JAX loss or tie OR

  2. NYJ win + SD loss or tie + IND loss or tie OR

  3. NYJ tie + OAK loss or tie + SD loss + IND loss
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Steelers Vs. Bengals, NFL Playoff Scenarios: Steelers Can Clinch Playoff Berth This Week

The Steelers can clinch an NFL playoff spot this week, Joel Thorman at SB Nation.com notes. The scenarios that would lead to the Steelers clinching a berth are complex, but there are several of them, and if they win (as they should, against the Bengals) and don't get a playoff spot this week, the scenarios will look a lot less complicated next week.

They can clinch a playoff spot in a number of ways. First: Steelers win plus Jaguars loss or tie plus Patriots win or tie plus Dolphins loss or tie. Second: Steelers win plus Colts loss or tie plus Patriots win or tie plus Dolphins loss or tie. Third: Steelers win plus Colts loss or tie plus Patriots win or tie plus Raiders loss or tie plus Chargers loss or tie. Fourth: Steelers win plus Colts loss or tie plus Dolphins loss or tie plus Raiders loss or tie. Fifth: Steelers tie plus Dolphins loss or tie plus Raiders loss or tie plus Chargers loss or tie plus Colts loss. The Steelers can clinch in other ways coming down to strength of victory tiebreaker over certain teams.

What's going on here is that the Steelers can't clinch the AFC North this week, because they're only one game ahead of the Baltimore Ravens and there will be three games left to play after the Bengals game. But because the AFC has been so weak after the top four teams (the Steelers, Ravens, Patriots and Jets), the Steelers have a shot at wrapping up a wild-card berth even if they don't end up with the AFC North crown. If the wild card standings were released today, the Steelers and Jets would top the list, with the Dolphins, Colts, Raiders and Chargers three games behind them, with only four games left to play.

The Patriots, Jets and Falcons can also clinch playoff spots this week.

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