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Week 15 Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Week 15 Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
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Rounding out an eventful Week 15 in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers travelled to Cincinnati to battle the Bengals. Struggling on offense in early part of the game once again, Ben Roethlisberger and company were shutout by their divisional rival in the first half for the first time since the early 1990s.

Turning the ball over multiple times in the matchup’s first 30 minutes, Pittsburgh would find themselves down 17-0 at the break. Battling back in the second half, a one-yard touchdown run by running back Benny Snell would pull Mike Tomlin’s group to within seven with just over two minutes remaining in the game. Unable to get the Bengals off the field in the final moments, a 33-yard field goal by Austin Seibert sealed the third win of the season for Zac Taylor’s team.

Why the Steelers Lost

Starting slow on offense once again, Roethlisberger completed just two of his first eight passes as the Steelers went three-and-out on seven of their first eight possessions. Failing to find any sort of rhythm early on, the two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback also had a fumbled exchange and an interception. Pittsburgh went a miserable 4-16 on third down and accumulated just 12 first downs in the game as they were unable to hit open receivers to help sustain drives.

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The Steelers continued to struggle on the ground, the team also failed to rush for over 100 yards for the seventh time in eight games. Led by running back Snell, who amassed 84 rushing yards on the night, the Steelers have not had a back go over the century mark since James Conner over two months ago.

Gashed on the ground by the Bengals, the Steelers allowed 152 rushing yards on 41 attempts. Longtime Bengals running back Giovani Bernard led the way with 83 yards and two touchdowns, as Taylor’s group was able to have their way with an undermanned middle of Keith Butler‘s defense. Failing to force a turnover on the night, Pittsburgh’s ball-hawking defense was on the field for over 32 minutes in this one as Cincinnati converted key third downs when needed to help sustain drives.

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Putting the game away for good late in the fourth quarter, Bengals quarterback Ryan Finley was able to take advantage of rookie outside linebacker Alex Highsmith on a play fake and scamper into the end zone on a 23-yard touchdown run.

Why the Bengals Won

Cincinnati put consistent pressure on Roethlisberger all night long. The young group of Bengals pass rushers were able to knock the 38-year-old off his spot, forcing him to complete under 55 percent of his passes. Setting the tone from the get-go, the team’s defense was able to force a turnover early in this one after safety Vonn Bell laid out receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster on a third-down play inside Steelers territory.

Jumping out to a quick 17-0 lead in the first half, Finley was efficient, completing five of eight passes for 75 yards, including a long 30-yard reception by veteran wide receiver A.J. Green. Running the ball effectively as well, the team rushed for 58 yards on 20 carries to set up the scoring drives.

In their best first-quarter performance of the season, Lou Anarumo’s group held the Steelers to just two yards as they forced two fumbles. Additionally, the team engineered thee straight three-and-outs on Pittsburgh drives as Roethlisberger hit only four of his first ten passes for negative yardage.

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Led by Lawson, Bell, and Darius Phillips, the team’s defense played stellar football all game long. Two weeks before heading into free agency, the former fourth-round pick in Lawson was the star of the night for Cincinnati. He recorded one sack and six quarterback hits, making life difficult for the left tackle Alejandro Villanueva all game long.

Highlights

What’s Next

Looking to build momentum off the win late in the year, the Bengals (3-10-1) and their defense will be in for another tough test this weekend as the team travels to Houston to battle Deshaun Watson and the Texans. One of the hottest quarterbacks in the league over the past few weeks, Watson has thrown seven touchdown passes in his last four games and will be another challenge for this young Cincinnati group.

Quickly on life support after losing three games in a row, the Steelers (11-3) return home to battle the Colts on Sunday. Winners of three in a row, Frank Reich‘s group is playing exceptional football behind the league’s number six overall defense in terms of yards allowed and will represent another tall order for a slumping Steelers passing attack.

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Main Image Credit: 

Embed from Getty Images

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