The Pittsburgh Steelers sojourn for home field advantage during the National Football League playoffs took another step forward Sunday with their 24-16 victory over the defending AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) at Heinz Field. It is the first time for the Black and Gold to open the season 2-0 since the 2010 campaign as they share the early division lead with the 2-0 Baltimore Ravens.
While Pittsburgh tight ends Xavier Grimble and Jesse James combined for just five receptions on the score sheet, they both made a case for more playing time as each hauled in a touchdown strike from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Could make the depth chart more intriguing.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler’s crew kept the Tabbies from the Queen City 0 for 3 in red zone scoring opportunities and 4 of 16 on third down conversions. One key was the defensive unit forcing the Bengals to punt nine times out of their first 12 possessions.
Some will say the Men of Steel got a reprieve from the officials on Cincinnati’s fourth quarter drive when Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton hit former Pitt Panther wide receiver Tyler Boyd with a six-yard pass. As Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison tackled Boyd, the ball appeared to come loose and was scooped up by safety Robert Golden. It looked like Boyd’s knee was on the ground when he and Harrison collided, but after a long replay review, the call on the field stood. It permitted the bend but don’t break defense to keep Cincy in check one more time.
Despite the pregame hype and animosity, the two combatants collected five penalties apiece on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The Steelers for a total of 54 yards and the Bengals for 31. Time to check in on the four players of the game which helped the Black and Gold record another victory.
1) DeAngelo Williams recorded 132 all-purpose yards on offense with 94 yards rushing on 32 carries and 38 yards receiving on four catches and a touchdown. The 5-foot-9, 207-pound running back from the University of Memphis now owns over 10,000 yards from the line of scrimmage in his NFL career. For the second consecutive week, Williams picked up the Steelers Digest Player of the Week award.
2) While Ryan Shazier listed as questionable because of his knee, coming into the contest, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound left inside linebacker put up a team-high 11 tackles against the Bengals.
3) In addition to his fumble recovery, strong safety Robert Golden had five solo tackles and assisted on three more for a total of eight stops. The 5-foot-11, 202-pound defensive back also broke up a pass on a goal-line stand in the third quarter.
4) Jordan Berry placed five of his eight punts inside the Bengals 10-yard line. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound punter out of Eastern Kentucky University averaged 47.1 yards per punt with his longest kick going 58 yards on the afternoon.
Offense Honorable Mention: Roethlisberger did not have a memorable day but did manage 259 receiving yards on his 19 completions to go along with his trio of touchdowns.
Defense Honorable Mention: Cornerback Ross Cockrell limited Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green to a pair of receptions, no touchdowns, and wrapped up the day with two passes defended.
Special Teams Honorable Mention: Placekicker Chris Boswell connected on all three of his extra-point attempts and a 49-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Cincinnati 24-year-old running back Giovani Bernard hauled in 11 of Dalton’s 31 pass completions for 100 yards and a touchdown. The starting cornerback tandem of Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick each had an interception of Roethlisberger.
Next Up: The Steelers travel across the Keystone State Sunday, Sept. 25 for a showdown in the City of Brotherly Love against the Philadelphia Eagles (1-0). Kickoff at Lincoln Financial Field is 4:25 p.m. and the matchup will be on CBS. The Eagles seek their second victory this evening on Monday Night Football against the Bears in Chicago.
From The Clipboard: Per Dave Bryan of the Steelers Depot website, recently acquired cornerback Justin Gilbert made his debut Sunday and was on the field for seven special team plays.