AFC North: Pittsburgh survives, Ravens lose big
The AFC North is bunched up with Baltimore leading the way at 5-2, Pittsburgh at 3-3, Cincinnati at 3-4 and Cleveland a lowly 1-6. The standings in the division are much tighter than they would have been if Ben Roethlisberger had led his Pittsburgh Steelers to victory Sunday night against division rival Cincinnati
Roethlisberger had 278 yards and one touchdown in the game and the Steelers broke a deadlock in the fourth quarters on a Chris Rainey 11-yard run for a touchdown. However, what rang through last night was that the Steelers are not yet ready to pack it in. Pittsburgh was close to going 2-4 on the season and two and a half games behind Baltimore and two behind Cincinnati. However, the Steelers pulled out a tough 24-17 win.
The victory was not easy, the first and second running backs were out injured along with two of the starting lineman on the offense. On defense, the Steelers were without Troy Polamalu who is still nursing a strained calf.
What was left was a defense that was determined to stop Cincinnati, a pair of reserve halfbacks and of course Roethlisberger. The defense for Pittsburgh slowed down the passing game of Cincinnati and Roethlisberger accomplished just what he had to, in order to win. The win was their first on the road this season and they are now holding down sole possession of second place behind Baltimore who was thrashed by 30 points on Sunday against Houston.
Jonathan Dwyer a third year back started for the first time in his career and had 122 yards on the night, a career best. He had a run late in the game for 32 yards that gave the Steelers the first down they needed to run out the clock. Also, chipping in, or kicking in was Shaun Suisham who had three field goals on the night, each over 40 yards.
Pittsburgh’s defense also came through big. They intercepted a pass that changed the momentum of the game. Ike Taylor the Pittsburgh cornerback was able to hold A.J. Green, the Bengals’ all pro wide receiver to just one catch on the night.
Cincinnati had been trying to prove they were worthy of being listed along with Baltimore and Pittsburgh, but failed again. The Bengals are 0-6 SU versus the Ravens and Steelers over the past two years, which places them closer to Cleveland in the division than the two powerhouses. The loss was their third consecutive and put them into third.
The first half looked like Cincinnati might just break through and win. The Bengals recovered a fumble, intercepted a pass in the end zone and frustrated Steelers receivers, causing them to drop passes.
With the win, the Steelers record in Cincinnati improved to 12-2, a place where thousands of Steelers fans always show up to cheer them on. The Steelers are 5-0 SU in their past five games in Cincinnati.
Even with the win, the Steelers have a number of things to work on. They are ranked 31st in the league in rushing. That makes it even more difficult to pass the ball. They are missing two starters on the OL and had a rookie starting last night.
The Steelers Alameda Ta’amu missed the game as he is serving a two game suspension for an arrest. Dre Kirkpatrick, the Bengals rookie cornerback was not active for the seventh straight games. He injured his knee during the summer and has been able to play yet.
The always touch AFC North has lived up to its reputation and continues to be one of the most competitive divisions in football. Pittsburgh side stepped a loss, while Cincinnati has a bye week to wonder what went wrong.