Steelers make it seven in row in Cincinnati
Steelers make it seven in row in Cincinnati
Monday, October 29, 2007
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Have a problem on offense or defense? Lose a football game you should have won? Mistakes got you down?
Play the Cincinnati Bengals and call your doctor in the morning.
Nothing helps the Steelers recover like a game against the Bengals, particularly in Paul Brown Stadium. There's no remedy like it.
The Steelers, a week after losing in Denver, returned to their home away from home and tortured the Bengals again in Cincinnati with a 24-13 victory. It raised their record to 5-2 and dropped the flailing Bengals perhaps down and out at 2-5.
That was their seventh consecutive victory in Paul Brown Stadium and their 12th in their past 16 games overall against Cincinnati.
"I think all of us are comfortable here,'' Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said.
No one looked more comfortable than quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who threw two touchdown passes to Hines Ward in the first half on the way to completing 19 of 26 for 230 yards.
"I thought Ben was awesome,'' coach Mike Tomlin said.
And this time, the Steelers came to run, too. Willie Parker ran 22 times for 126 yards and a touchdown late in the second quarter as the Steelers ran out to a 21-6 halftime lead.
Unlike the previous week when they played the worst run defense in the NFL and threw on 10 of their first 13 plays, the Steelers opened with old-school fullback Dan Kreider in the I-formation in front of Parker and ran it.
"I hope Willie ran the ball enough in the first half for you guys,'' Tomlin said as he greeted the media afterward.
"We had a simple plan, really; it was no frills and guys executed to the letter."
Even when Kreider left early in the first quarter with an ankle injury, they kept two backs on the field most of the game as Carey Davis replaced Kreider.
It did not work immediately, but from their second series on, it worked almost perfectly. After their first series failed and the Bengals' Shayne Graham kicked a 31-yard field goal for a brief 3-0 lead, the Steelers scored touchdowns on their next three series.
Santonio Holmes charged up the first when Roethlisberger pump-faked and threw deep for a 42-yard completion to the Cincinnati 16.
After a penalty, Ward scalded Leon Hall by running the kind of route that left the rookie cornerback running to the middle of the end zone, and Ward open on the left to catch a 21-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger. It did not hurt that the Bengals had just 10 defenders on the field at the time, either.
Cincinnati used single coverage much of the game against the Steelers' wide receivers, and they paid for it -- Ward caught eight passes for 88 yards and Holmes six for 87.
"It's all about route-running,'' Ward said. "When you come up and run a route and your head coach comes up to you and says, that's one of the best routes I've seen ...''
Just to make sure, Ward did it again when he caught a third-down pass in the middle of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead on the next drive.
Roethlisberger kept that series alive with one Houdini move on a day filled with them. On third down, he threw a 7-yard pass as he was going down to Holmes, good enough for the first down.
"I think we're all getting comfortable with expecting those plays from him because that's what he's capable of,'' Tomlin said of his quarterback.
Next came what might have been a turning point in the game. Glenn Holt returned a kickoff 42 yards on a bad day for Steelers' kick coverage, and the Bengals quickly moved toward the goal line. They had a fourth-and-1 at the 2 when coach Marvin Lewis called timeout, then sent Graham in to kick a 20-yard field goal rather than try for a touchdown.
"When I saw the distance, I decided to take the field goal,'' Lewis explained. "It was a good yard ... Our fans and players always want to go for it on offense.''
The Steelers started their next series with 2:11 left and, with Roethlisberger operating from the shotgun, moved steadily downfield. Parker started things with a 32-yard run on a delay around the left side. He also ended things on the ninth play when he ran to the left for a 1-yard touchdown and a 21-6 lead with four seconds left in the half.
"You got to get in or you know it might be the last play of the half,'' Parker said. "I knew I had to get in when I got the ball."
The Steelers might have had a perfect second half except that Roethlisberger, pulling off play after play as he broke from the pocket, was not on one occasion. As the Steelers closed in on more points on their first series of the second half, Roethlisberger took the snap in the shotgun on third down from Cincinnati's 11 and rolled right to escape pressure.
Instead of throwing the ball away and taking three points from Jeff Reed, Roethlisberger threw back over the middle to his left toward apparently no one except Bengals cornerback Deltha O'Neal, who intercepted it.
That seemed to spark something in the home club, which covered 88 yards on 17 plays and finally scored a touchdown when Carson Palmer (23 of 31, 205) threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. With a full 13 minutes to play, the sloppy Bengals suddenly were only one touchdown away at 21-13.
But Roethlisberger pulled off maybe his best play of the game on third-and-6. Again he was going down for what looked like a sack after scrambling to the right, only to spot Holmes running away from him over the middle. He tossed him a touch-pass that ended up being good for 12 yards and a first down.
A few minutes later, Reed put the Steelers ahead, 24-13, by kicking a 40-yard field goal.
"That one where he moved to his left and hit Santonio coming back across to his right on third down was a tremendous play in that game,'' Tomlin said. "It allowed us to continue to go down and score a field goal and make it 11 points. Big-time play.''
Big-time win. It re-established the Steelers as the team to beat in the AFC North Division as they prepare to play the two teams tied for second over the next two weeks, Baltimore and Cleveland, both 4-3.
And they may have buried the Bengals.
"Five losses in our division, in the AFC, it's going to be tough,'' Ward said.
At least the Bengals can cling to one thought -- they don't have to play the Steelers at home again this year.
Re: Steelers make it seven in row in Cincinnati
And Ben is 9-0 in Ohio. :tt02:
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