Steelers hold on to dump Bengals on road
CINCINNATI — Ben Roethlisberger stood on the sidelines at windswept Paul Brown Stadium and watched a rookie quarterback who had won six of his first eight starts drive the Cincinnati Bengals in position to tie the Steelers.
That is when Byron Leftwich, Roethlisberger's backup who is on injured reserve with a broken arm, said, "C'mon, Will, undercut this."
"Next thing you know," Roethlisberger said with a smile, "Byron's hitting me, 'I told you, I told you.' "
William Gay jumped in front of an Andy Dalton pass with a little more than two minutes left, securing his second-career interception and preserving the Steelers' 24-17 win Sunday in a key AFC North game.
The Steelers improved to 7-3 and picked up their first division win this season. They also vaulted into first place in the division, as Seattle upset the Baltimore Ravens. The Bengals and Ravens are 6-3.
"If you are going to win the division," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, "you've got to win some division games."
Defensive end Brett Keisel put a different spin on the Steelers' 10th win in the past 11 games in Cincinnati.
"Gotta get that seventh win if we're going to win our seventh Lombardi (Trophy)," Keisel said.
The Steelers have no plans of stopping at seven wins. They catch a breather with a bye this week, affording them the opportunity to get injured players healthy, before embarking on the final six games of the season.
They will need some fine-tuning, though, after staggering the Bengals early, then allowing them to rally from a 14-point deficit.
"We're doing enough things offensively and defensively to win, but I still don't think we're playing to our full potential," Roethlisberger said after throwing for 245 yards, one touchdown and one interception. "As long as we're still winning games, that's all that matters because hopefully when we do hit it full stride and are playing really well, who knows where it will go?"
For the first time this season, the offense went no-huddle on the road.
Roethlisberger, who frequently lobbies to go no-huddle, was approached by Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians early in the third quarter about changing pace. Roethlisberger endorsed the idea, and midway through the quarter he engineered an 11-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that snapped a 17-17 tie.
The Steelers were not penalized on the drive, and the only hiccup came when Roethlisberger took a 2-yard loss on a sack. He made amends on the next play, hitting Mike Wallace for a 12-yard gain.
Rashard Mendenhall then bulled into the end zone from 9 yards — his second of the game — out to give the Steelers a lead for good.
"Those are the ones you are proud of the guys because it's loud, we're calling stuff out," Roethlisberger said of the game-winning drive. "I don't think we had any miscommunication."
The defense took over after that, forcing two turnovers and allowing just four first downs.
"We needed those (turnovers), and hopefully we continue to do that," defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "I thought our guys played well, played hard, stayed with it and made their best plays with the game on the line."
Steelers vs. Bengals 11/13⁄11
The Steelers defeat Cincinnati, 24-17, Sunday November 13, 2011 at Paul Brown Stadium.
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