On the last one, with the Bengals trailing, 17-6, late in the third quarter, they had a first down at the Steelers 1 and couldn’t get in with the last two downs going to tight end C.J. Uzomah.
Uzomah, a second-year pro trying to replace a Pro Bowl red-zone target, has plenty of potential but he’s developing in the harsh glare of an AFC North race. On Sunday he was targeted eight times and had two drops to go along with three catches. On second down from the Steelers 3 he got his hands on it at the back end line but was muscled out of bounds on a play the Bengals didn’t challenge because there wasn’t enough evidence that he stayed in.
The problem is they couldn’t remove Roethlisberger from the situation. As he always does he made his coaches look good by bailing them out of loads of trouble. He completed just 19 of 37 passes and tried to force feed it to Brown on 11 targets. But when he had to, he threw lovely balls to guys you may have not heard of, such as tight ends Jesse James and cheap jerseys and Xavier Grimble and wide receiver Sammie Coates.
It was a long ball to Coates that Kirkpatrick turned into a leaping interception with 48 seconds left in the first half for the Bengals’ best field position of the day and the offense turned it into a huge last play field-goal that cut the Steelers’ lead to 10-6.
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I thought he played well. I thought he did a lot of good things. He can’t focus on the fumble. Obviously it was a big play in the game, but he has to move past it. That’s the way it is. We have another really good team we’re going to be playing this week, so you have to move on from it and learn from it. I think he will.
There were different plays, and at different times, calls to go to different guys. That’s just how it was today. There were times when A.J. Green would catch 12 balls and there are other times when other guys will get involved. That’s just how it is.
“Definitely,” Boyd said when asked if he thought his knee was down. “The guys did a real great job having my back. Telling me to keep my head up. I felt real bad because there was (1:50 left) and we were in great position to go down and score. Once I saw it on the screen, I just felt we were going to have another chance, another snap at it. But it didn’t go our way.”
The Bengals did a superb job of holding resident Steelers superman Antonio Brown to four catches for 39 yards and no TDs, his lowest yardage total with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger since Dec. 30, 2012, long before he was “AB.”
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Hampered all day by a Steelers defense that basically took away the deep ball with a two deep safety zone and a four-man rush most of the day, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, en route to a career-high 54 passes, hurried up underneath the zone trailing, 24-9, with a seven-for-seven drive capped off by running back Giovani Bernard’s 25-yard catch-and-run for a TD that cut it to 24-16 with 3:23 left.
And with the Bengals driving for a chance to tie it from the Steelers 39 on the first play after the two-minute warning, Bengals rookie wide receiver Tyler Boyd suffered a nightmare for one of the greatest high school and college players ever from Pittsburgh. After having a solid six-catch game for 78 yards, Boyd fumbled the last one, a six-yarder over the middle with 1:50 left, on a play the Bengals thought Boyd’s knee was down at the Steelers 33 as James Harrison hit him before the ball came out.
The two local beat reporters, Jay Morrison of The Dayton Daily News and Richard Skinner, the digital sports columnist for Channel 12, are in on the Steelers for a variety of reasons. Morrison thinks the Bengals might have a tough time shortening the game on the ground and Skinner goes with the home team on what he sees as a 50-50 ball in the air.
Gerry Dulac of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette goes Steelers because of the ease with which they put up 38 points Monday night in Washington without three weapons in Le’Veon Bell, Markus Wheaton, and Ladarius Green, two of which they won’t have Sunday.