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Week 13 Game Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers 23, Cincinnati Bengals 20


What you need to know

Pittsburgh Steelers

After a sluggish start in Cincinnati, the Steelers bounced back in the second half for the critical divisional win to remain in the driver’s seat for a first round bye in the playoffs. LeVeon Bell was stuffed for much of the first half before a huge finish to the tune of 182 total yards. Despite 106 yards and a touchdown, Antonio Brown could have approached 200 yards with another touchdown considering his missed opportunities and an interference penalty. Juju Smith-Schuster is suspended for Week 14 for his blindside block on Vontaze Burflict, clearing targets for Martavis Bryant and Eli Rogers as ancillary receivers against Baltimore next week.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals offense played well but shot itself in the foot one too many times to win with holding penalties bringing back multiple big plays, including a deep touchdown catch by A.J. Green that would have likely sealed the win. Green scored twice. Joe Mixon was off to a great start but had to leave the game midway through the first half due to a concussion. Giovani Bernard consistently ripped off solid gains in relief of Mixon, with the Bengals averaging 6.0 yards per carry on the day.

Pittsburgh Steelers

QB Ben Roethlisberger, 66 offensive snaps, Pass: 24 - 40 - 290 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - 4 - 0
Battling the wind in Cincinnati and an inspired pass rush, Roethlisberger shrugged off a sluggish start for a comeback win in the closing seconds. As the Steelers fell behind 17-0, Roethlisberger had two noteworthy misfires. Roethlisberger eluded the rush, but was late and casual with a throw across his body which was intercepted. Also, Roethlisberger severely underthrew a deep out in Antonio Brown’s direction (and against the wind) which was nearly intercepted. The Steelers passing game picked up over the final 30 minutes, however, as Roethlisberger calibrated to the wind with accurate intermediate and deeper throws. Notably, Roethlisberger threw a laser goal line touchdown to Antonio Brown between defenders, another seam throw to Brown, and a skinny post to Martavis Bryant as Pittsburgh marched into game-winning field goal range. While not a particularly mobile quarterback at this stage in his career, Roethlisberger also added a zone read keeper on third down to scramble for a conversion. Baltimore offers the stiffest test for the Steelers passing game since their Week 5 matchup against Jacksonville. Ben Roethlisberger heads into the divisional rivalry with multiple touchdowns in four straight games and 12 touchdowns overall during the span.

RB LeVeon Bell, 63 offensive snaps, Rush: 18 - 76 - 0, Rec: 5 - 106 - 1 (6 targets)
Bell, much like the rest of the Steelers offense, had a slow start against Cincinnati before sparking a comeback victory. It was not until later in the second quarter Bell found room to operate, splashing for a 33-yard reception as Pittsburgh finally got on the board with a field goal. In the second half, Bell exhibited his trademark patience at the line of scrimmage as the Pittsburgh offensive line opened more holes than the opening half. Bell posted two notable runs of 10 or more yards when for multiple seconds there appeared to be little available. On one of the big plays of the game, Bell caught an outlet reception and tight-roped down the sideline. A Cincinnati defender let him go as Bell was close to the sideline. However, the whistle did not blow and Bell managed to stay in bounds to turn the moderate gain into a long touchdown. Outside of a handful of chunk gains on the ground, the Bengals held Bell in check as runner. It was through the air where Cincinnati had no answer for Bell as he caught at least five passes for the fourth straight game. Bell faces a Baltimore defense next week who has allowed the fewest running back receptions in the NFL on the season and is the only team yet to allow a receiving touchdown to a running back.

WR Antonio Brown, 66 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 101 - 1 (15 targets)
Brown saw a hearty 38% of the team targets against the Bengals. His 101-yard effort could have been even bigger as Brown also logged a long defensive pass interference penalty and had a long touchdown in his hands until he failed to control it at the last second. Brown also had two drops, one down the seam and another on a crossing route among his 15 targets. Brown’s positive moments, however, were breathtaking as Ben Roethlisberger connected with Brown on a back shoulder catch and later a laser goal line touchdown between two defenders. Brown held on through a vicious hit which was flagged on the play. Brown enters a tough matchup against Baltimore next week on a hot streak of three straight 100-yard games and six touchdowns combined over the span. Baltimore has allowed only five wide receiver touchdowns all season and shut down Brown in Week 4 to the tune of 4-34-0 on nine targets.

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 17 - 0 (5 targets)
Smith-Schuster was shut down by Cincinnati as all of his targets were close to the line of scrimmage and he did not succeed finding after-the-catch opportunities. Smith-Schuster most notably was penalized for a vicious block on Vontaze Burfict in the mid-fourth quarter and subsequent taunting on the play as Burfict suffered a concussion. Smith-Schuster has been suspended for Week 14 against the Ravens and will open expanded roles for Martavis Bryant and Eli Rogers as ancillary receivers.

WR Martavis Bryant, 40 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 40 - 0 (6 targets)
Bryant had the second-most targets on the team, six, against Cincinnati. Bryant had opportunities for a bigger performance, including a kickoff return for a touchdown called back by penalty, deep defensive pass interference penalty, and a 50/50 target which he could not win in the air. Bryant’s lone reception of note came on a skinny post, fueling Pittsburgh into game-winning field goal range in the closing minute.

WR Eli Rogers, 17 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 4 - 0 (2 targets)
Rogers had a minimal role as the No.4 receiver against Cincinnati, seeing only two targets and a single reception. Rogers corralled a short out route, but also logged a false start penalty on third down to thwart a drive. Rogers stands to see a playing time uptick in Week 14 with Juju Smith-Schuster serving a one-game suspension.

TE Jesse James, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 13 - 0 (2 targets)
James was invisible in the Steelers passing game until the final minutes of the game. James converted a short crosser route where he was left alone to convert a third down in the red zone. James, the lumbering athlete, even managed yards-after-catch on the play. This week marked the fourth game of the season where James caught one or fewer passes.


Cincinnati Bengals

QB Andy Dalton, 64 offensive snaps, Pass: 21 - 36 - 234 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 19 - 0
Dalton almost got into trouble a couple times trying to squeeze the ball through double coverage into A.J. Green but was able to avoid an interception for the sixth straight game. Dalton also threw two touchdown passes and has 20 in his last 10 games. Both touchdowns were to A.J. Green, one from 8 yards out and the other from the 15-yard line. The duo also hooked up for a 61-yard touchdown on a well-placed deep all that was called back due to a holding call on Giovani Bernard. Dalton made a number of clutch throws on 3rd-and-longs to keep drives moving. He hit Brandon LaFell on an especially pretty ball down the sideline for a gain of 27 to setup a field goal.

RB Giovani Bernard, 44 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 77 - 0, Rec: 2 - 19 - 0 (3 targets)
Bernard was a part of the game plan from the start, receiving the first carry of the game on the opening drive. However, he was forced into a much more prominent role once Joe Mixon was knocked from the game with a concussion midway through the second quarter. Bernard was the lead back the rest of the way and was able to consistently rip off runs of 5-to-10 yards. While he ran well, Bernard was called for an incredibly costly hold, which nullified a 61-yard touchdown catch by AJ. Green. He also had a costly false start penalty in the fourth quarter.

RB Joe Mixon, 17 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 34 - 0, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (1 targets)
Mixon came out of the gates strong, ripping off solid gains of 8, 9 and 10 yards in the early part of the game. Mixon was running with excellent patience and flashed the incredibly unique mix of power, speed and change of direction that could eventually make him one of the league’s top backs. His day was cut short when he was sandwiched between two defenders after a gain of 8 yards on a screen pass. He left with 6:44 remaining in the half and never returned due to the concussion.

WR A.J. Green, 62 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 77 - 2 (16 targets)
Green mostly played well but had another costly mistake in a big spot that might have cost the Bengals the ball game. He started off hot, scoring touchdowns of 8 yards and 15 yards in the first half. His first touchdown, he badly beat the cornerback on an out route while getting away with a subtle push on the defender’s shoulder that allowed him to create huge separation. Green caught a deep ball and then weaved his way past a pair of defenders for what looked to be a 61-yard touchdown, his third of the day but the play was called back due to a holding call. Green dropped what should have been a 20-yard completion with the game tied and under five minutes remaining. While it was raining at the time, it was a ball Green should have caught. For all his heroics, he has too often been unable to make the winning play in big games.

WR Brandon LaFell, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 55 - 0 (7 targets)
LaFell was again a go-to option for Dalton in the passing game. He made a beautiful toe-tap catch deep down the sideline on a gain that went for 27 yards. Dalton tried to force it into LaFell in the end zone despite double coverage and the play was easily broken up.

TE Tyler Kroft, 59 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 30 - 0 (2 targets)
Kroft made a pair of tough catches down the seam for gains of 11 and 19 yards. Dalton was able to fit the ball into tight windows of the Pittsburgh zone and Kroft held on despite taking big hits on both plays.