Steelers grind out win over Bengals
PITTSBURGH (AP) – No chaos this time. No meltdowns either.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals stuck to football this time.
And Ben Roethlisberger’s sharp second half gave the Steelers an early leg up in the race for the AFC North title by shaking off a pair of first-half interceptions to finish with 259 yards and three scores and Pittsburgh held on for a 24-16 win on Sunday.
DeAngelo Williams churned out 94 yards on a career-high 32 carries and added a 4-yard touchdown grab with 6:48 remaining to give the Steelers (2-0) all the breathing room they would need.
Tight ends Jesse James and Xavier Grimble also caught scoring passes from Roethlisberger as Pittsburgh kept Cincinnati in check at rainy Heinz Field.
The rematch of the Steelers’ ugly 18-16 win in the wild-card round in January was downright tame by comparison. The teams combined for just 10 penalties and only one personal foul, a marked departure from that messy night in Cincinnati nine months ago that included more than 220 penalty yards and a series of nasty hits that cost the players involved thousands in fines and Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict the first three games of the 2016 season.
“I think they’re all civil,” Williams said with a laugh. “Sometimes you have civil disputes. We just didn’t have any of those.”
Andy Dalton passed for 366 yards and a touchdown but needed 31 completions to reach that total, working almost exclusively on dump offs to running backs and tight ends while Pittsburgh clamped down on star wide receiver A.J. Green, who finished with just two receptions for 38 yards.
“We were able to take (Green) out of the game,” Steelers safety Mike Mitchell said. “We knew if we could minimize his impact, the outcome was going to be good for us and it was.”
Pittsburgh controlled the tempo throughout and after Roethlisberger shook off a so-so first half in which he tossed two interceptions and the Steelers pulled away.
Roethlisberger hit Sammie Coates with a pretty 53-yard pass to set up a 9-yard toss to James. The quarterback later used a 14-yard scramble – his longest run in three seasons – to set up a flip to Williams that put Pittsburgh up 24-9.
SLOPPY FINISH: Dalton found Giovanni Bernard for a 25-yard touchdown with 3:25 left, but each of Cincinnati’s last two drives ended in turnovers. Tyler Boyd fumbled after getting hit by James Harrison in Pittsburgh territory with 1:50 to play even though replays appeared to show Boyd – who grew up in suburban Pittsburgh and played collegiately on the same field for Pitt – may have been down before the ball came out.
“I should have done a better job with ball security,” said Boyd, who finished with six catches for 78 yards. “I still believe I was down but the call didn’t say so. All I can do is go out there and keep playing.”
Cincinnati’s second turnover came on a last-ditch lateral by Bernard that ended up in Pittsburgh defensive end Cam Heyward’s hands after time expired.
NO SHOW: Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was the relatively conservative game plans or maybe it was just pretty solid defense.
Whatever it was, the expected duel between superstar wide receivers Antonio Brown and A.J. Green never materialized .
Brown caught just four passes for 39 yards and even had a rare drop while running free in the middle of the field in the first half.
Green, guarded almost exclusively by Pittsburgh cornerback Ross Cockrell at the line, struggled to find much room to move. The only impact play Green made came on drawing a pass interference play against Cockrell that set up Mike Nugent’s field goal. A week after dominating Darrelle Revis for 12 catches and 180 yards and a touchdown against the Jets, Green was a nonfactor and one of the reasons Cincinnati went just 4 of 16 on third down.
“We converted one or two, but not enough of them that mattered,” Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis said.
THEY SAID IT:
“We were never planning on our role being diluted down, but we feel good about where we are now.” James on the contributions of the reserve tight ends following the retirement of Heath Miller and a lingering injury to free-agent signee Ladarius Green.