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Steelers defense nearly perfect Monday night vs. Bengals

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The Steelers desperately needed a win Monday night and the defense held up their end of the bargain.

After Diontae Johnson fumbled at Steelers’ 15-yard line five minutes into the game, the defense held and only gave up a field goal. That set the tone for a dominating defense the rest of the game, as they would not give up another point.

“I thought [holding them to three points] was significant, preventing touchdowns when we turn the ball over,” Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin said. “I thought [the pass rush] showed up tonight.

Defensive lineman Cam Heyward felt the early stand was big for the defense early-on.

“Holding them to three points was huge for us. We didn’t let them score the rest of the way,” Tuitt said. “We were able to get off on third down. That was critical for us. We contained the quarterback and caused a lot of ruckus in the backfield.”

Causing a lot of ruckus was an understatement, as the Steelers sacked Bengal quarterback Andy Dalton eight times, the most Dalton has ever been sacked in a game. Heyward led the charge with 2.5 sacks. T.J. Watt added 1.5 sacks. Watt felt the win was critical.

“Our backs were against the wall. We knew we needed a good performance and a win,” Watt said. “We had a lot of fun flying around. It was great out there tonight. Our defense was so hungry. We never took our foot off the gas pedal.”

Rookie linebacker Devin Bush got his first career sack in the win. He credited the entire defense with a team win. He had nine tackles, a quarterback hurry, and a pass defended.

“I felt like everybody was on the same page tonight. It was team defense. Everyone did their job,” Bush said. “It felt great to get my first sack. Hopefully there will be many more to come.

When you have good coverage behind you, the quarterback has to hold the ball longer. We wanted to create chaos up front.”

The Steelers turned the ball over on downs midway through the first quarter, after failing to get a first down on third and one and fourth and one from the Cincinnati 42 yard line. The defense responded by holding the Bengals to a three-and-out to force a punt.

The Steelers got their first touchdown after the defense forced a Bengals punt from their five yard line which gave quarterback Mason Rudolph a short, 46-yard field.

The next time the Bengals were driving in Pittsburgh territory, Bud Dupree strip sacked Dalton, and Watt recovered at Pittsburgh 29 yard line to snuff out Bengal drive. Dupree had five tackles. Watt had two tackles and three quarterback hurries.

“We had a chance to rush today and we were winning our one-on-ones. We weren’t in coverage as much,” Dupree said. “We needed a game like this on defense. This was an opportunity for us to get a good pass rush. Everyone on defense, we hold ourselves to high expectations. We need to build on this game and keep learning.”

In the second half, the Bengals faced fourth and goal from the 13 yard line. Dalton threw into the end zone but Mark Barron Barron intercepted the low pass to snuff out the Bengals’ best chance to score in the game. Barron led the team in tackles with 11.

“The turnover in the end zone was big for us,” Heyward said. “We wanted to celebrate as a defense.”

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