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Defense carries Steelers over Bengals 23-7

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Troy Polamalu and Lamarr Woodley each returned an interception for a touchdown, Woodley added two sacks and Polamalu another interception, and the Steelers won a defensive battle over the hapless Cincinnati Bengals 23-7 at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon.

Steelers 23 – Bengals 7

Pittsburgh’s offense couldn’t score a touchdown but, in the end, it didn’t need to. Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley each scored on interception returns as they headlined a defensive onslaught against division-rival Cincinnati.


Pittsburgh’s defense nearly forced a three-and-out to start the game, if not for a drive-extending offsides call on third down. That penalty, coupled with a defensive pass interference call later in the action, allowed Cincinnati to take an early 7-0 lead on a pass from QB Carson Palmer to RT Andrew Whitworth, who was an eligible receiver on the play. The Steelers struggled on offense, punting the ball away on their first three drives while the defense kept things close. Midway through the second quarter, though, the defense took things into its own hands. Palmer dropped back on second down looking for WR Terrell Owens, but all he found was Troy Polamalu. Polamalu snagged the interception and dove into the endzone for a 45-yard score. After a three-and-out by the Bengals following the pick-six, Pittsburgh snuck into the redzone with a big assist from Antwaan Randle El, who made a highlight-reel one-handed catch. The drive came up short, however, and kicker Shaun Suisham booted a 23-yard field goal to give Pittsburgh a 10-7 lead going into the half.

Pittsburgh had the ball to start the second half and increased the lead to 13-7 thanks to a second field goal from Suisham, this time from 35-yards out. After a stalled drive by the Bengals, the Steelers chipped their way into the redzone for the third straight drive, but came up empty as back-to-back sacks of Roethlisberger put the team out of field goal range. One play later, though, the defense struck again as LB LaMarr Woodley intercepted a pass from Palmer and took it all the way for a fourteen-yard touchdown and a 20-7 lead. Suisham added a 41-yard field goal to close out the scoring later in the quarter and a second pick by Polamalu closed out the game, giving Pittsburgh a 23-7 win.


Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, and WR Emmanuel Sanders all suffered minor injuries during the game, but all returned with no major issues.


On the ground:
Pittsburgh’s rushing attack was quiet on the afternoon. Rashard Mendenhall led the team with 66 yards on eighteen carries. Mewelde Moore added four carries for 18 yards, WR Mike Wallace notched 12 yards after a pitch from fellow-receiver Antwaan Randle El, and Isaac Redman contributed four yards on his lone carry, which converted a third-and-short opportunity.

Through the air: Roethlisberger was efficient, hitting on 21-of-33 attempts for 258 yards, but had zero touchdowns on the day. Hines Ward was the bread-winner on this day, grabbing eight balls for 115 yards. Wallace contributed five catches for 78 yards. Rookie Antonio Brown and the veteran Randle El were the only other receivers to tally more than one reception.


As has become common these days, the defense carried the team in a win. LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu both snagged interceptions and returned them for touchdowns. Polamalu would grab a second pick late in the game to end the game. Woodley also notched two sacks on the day with CB William Gay contributing a third takedown for the team. LB James Farrior led the team with 10 total tackles and tied S Ryan Clark for the lead-team with six solo tackles.


Shaun Suisham remains perfect as a Steeler, hitting all three of his field goals against the Bengals. Newly-signed punter Jeremy Kapinos had five punts for just a 35.2 yard average, but the low total was the result of the team’s field position at the time of the punts. Those five tries included three downed inside of the 20-yard line and a solid 53-yard boot. Antonio Brown handled all the return duties, returning two kicks for a 20.0-yard average and two punts for a total of one yard, but almost lost the ball on one of those returns.


While Polamalu’s interception was the turning point of the game, LaMarr Woodley’s was the dagger. Woodley paired that pick-six with two sacks, two tackles for a loss, two QB hits, five tackles and a pass deflection.


Pittsburgh takes on the suddenly-mortal New York Jets, who have lost their last two games after a string of wins featuring late-game heroics. New York will come to Heinz Field sporting a 9-4 record and the two teams will square off on CBS at 4:15.


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