For a short minute, it appeared that the Bengals were about to come into Heinz Field and knock the Steelers out of the playoffs. A 10-3 lead at the half unfortunately wasn’t enough as the Steelers came from behind in the second half and won 16-13. Here was our live blog from the game:
The Steelers offense continued to show signs of life and drove 48 yards on 13 plays, including a fourth down conversion at the Bengals’ 35-yard line. A couple penalties from Maurkice Pouncey prohibited them from going any further and they had to settle for a field goal, which gave them a 13-10 lead.
A beastly 51-yard run from Joe Mixon took the Bengals into scoring range, but a sack from Heyward forced the field goal unit onto the field for the second time today. Bullock’s 32-yard field goal tied the game at 13 a piece.
The Steelers responded with another double-digit drive which resulted in a 35-yard field goal from McCrane. The Bengals started their drive from their own 35-yard line with under two minutes to play, but Christian Westerman was called for a false start on the first play. The Bengals failed to convert on a fourth-and-five and the Steelers ran out the clock.
The Bengals got the ball back to start the second half and right guard Alex Redmond was benched for Christian Westerman to start the drive. The drive didn’t last long as T.J. Watt strip-sacked Driskel again and recovered the fumble he caused. The Steelers will start their first drive of the half at their own 45-yard line.
Cordy Glenn was also injured on that drive and Andre Smith came in for him at left tackle on their next drive. Smith helped pave the way for a -yard run for Joe Mixon. An Alex Erickson holding penalty and a Cameron Heyward sack forced a third-and-20, which the Bengals failed to convert. The Steelers will once again get the ball back near midfield, still down a touchdown and extra point.
After two more punts from each team, the Steelers offense finally awakened. A 47-yard reception to James Washington set up the Steelers close to the red zone. Two plays later, JuJu Smith-Schuster caught an 11-yard pass and scampered into the end zone. With just a few minutes left in the third quarter, the game is tied at 10.
For the first time since mid-November, the Bengals intercepted a pass! Shawn Williams steped in front of a Ben Roethlisberger pass and took it back 58 yards for a touchdown and the first points of the game. The Bengals lead 7-0.
Bengals take a 7-0 lead on Shawn Williams pick-six. pic.twitter.com/h8xDKpQhAj— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 30, 2018
On the ensuing Steelers’ drive, Darqueze Dennard forced an Eli Rogers fumble that the receiver did end up recovering on his own. Three plays later, Christian Ringo sacked Roethlisberger and forced another Steelers punt.
Auden Tate got his first reception in a while on the Bengals’ next drive, but a T.J. Watt strip-sack on Driskel that was recovered by the Bengals and an Alex Redmond personal foul penalty stalled the drive just outside the red zone. Randy Bullock nailed a 49-yard field goal and the Bengals extended their lead to 10-0.
With just over two minutes remaining in the half, the Steelers converted a fourth-and-one but an unnecessary roughness penalty created a third-and-25 that the Steelers couldn’t convert. A 39-yard field goal from kicker Matt McCrane at the buzzer makes the score 10-3 at the half.
Despite converting a third-and-11, the Steelers’ offense failed to move the ball five yards past midfield on the game’s first possession and punted it away. The Bengals took over at their own 20-yard line but went three-and-out. Joe Mixon was on the sidelines for the drive but is not reportedly injured. The Steelers responded with a three-and-out of their own and the Bengals will start their second drive at their own 29-yard line.
Mixon was out on the field for this drive but it was Jeff Driskel who moved the chains with his legs after converting the team’s first third down to Alex Erickson. A few plays later, Driskel tried to connect with Cody Core down the field but it was deflected away. Going to the ground, Core dislocated his elbow and is unlikely to return. The Bengals punted it away after failing to convert a third-and-13 with seconds remaining in the quarter.
At 4-1, the Bengals were looking like a playoff team heading into the heart of the season. All seemed fine until Pittsburgh came to town in Week 6. Cincinnati lost on a last-minute touchdown the last time in that game, and the Bengals started to swerve off the road from then on.
Cincinnati has lost Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd, and those are just the offensive weapons that were able to play in against the Steelers the first time back in October. Fast forward two months and this roster has been depleted nearly beyond recognition. And the question on everyone’s minds is: how much will really change this offseason?
The Steelers have no one to blame but themselves for not having control of their own destiny at this point in the season. Losses to the Raiders and Broncos in recent weeks really hurt their chances. Their Week 1 tie with the Browns that could’ve easily ended in a loss it wasn’t for a multiple missed field goals by the Browns also stings four months later.
It would certainly be a nice way to end the season if this rag tag group of Bengals could pull off the impossible by eliminating any chance of the Steelers heading to the postseason.
How to watch the Bengals take on the Steelers Sunday:
Game: Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1)
Date/Time: Dec. 30th, 2018 at 4:25 p.m. EST
Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Series Leader: Steelers lead the all-time series 61-35
Streak: Steelers have won the past six games
Coaches vs. Opponent: Marvin Lewis: (8-23) vs. Mike Tomlin (18-5)
Television: The game will air on CBS-TV. In the Bengals’ home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Kevin Harlan (play-byplay), Rich Gannon (analyst) and Steve Tasker (sideline reporter).
Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).
SB Nation Steelers site: Behind the Steel Curtain
Weather: Mid 30’s, Mostly Cloudy [NFL weather]
Odds: Bengals open as, +16.5 [Odds Shark]
Predictions: numberFire is projecting a 30-19 win for the Steelers. TeamRankings went with a 29-16 win for the home team.