Keeping an Interested Eye on That Steelers vs. Bengals Clash
By Erica Stubbs
Special to Pro Football Guru
All eyes were on the Monday night prime time game in Cincinnati, Ohio. Fans and players alike. Baltimore Ravens fans watched with the bitter taste of rivalry in their mouths. A win by the Steelers would practically guarantee a division win and force the Ravens into a “must win” situation; a difficult scenario since three of the final four games pit the Ravens against division rivals.
AFC North games are often characterized by terms like “physical” and “chippy” especially close to the end of the season. This Monday night game would be no different. Early in the first quarter, the Steelers picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on running back, Le’Veon Bell. This would be the tone of the game as several players were involved in some excessive pushing and shoving.
Less than halfway through the first quarter, Steelers’ inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was injured while making a tackle. Shazier fell to the ground clearly in distress as he held his hand to his back. Barely lifting his head off the ground he indicated to his team that he needed help as his lower body lay motionless. Minutes later he was carted off the field with his hands covering his face.
Despite obvious and well founded concerns for their teammate, the Steelers battled on. At halftime, the Bengals were 14 points ahead of the Steelers by a score of 17-3.
While the Cincinnati offense had momentum in the first half, out of the locker room the Steelers defense reappeared as a strong unit. Feeding off of the success of the defense, the Steelers quickly drove down the field and scored a touchdown to bring them within seven of the flailing Bengals in the third quarter.
Tension heated up as the rain came pouring down and for most of the second half Pittsburgh held Cincinnati scoreless. The little offense that Cincy was able to muster up lead to three points and that would be all they could manufacture.
If the aggressive play in the first half wasn’t enough, Steelers rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster got in on the action when he laid a block on defenseless Bengals’ linebacker Vontaze Burfict. To add insult to injury, the rookie stood over Burfict as he lay on the turf. Shortly thereafter, a cart would be brought out to take him off the field. Smith-Schuster would later be given a one-game suspension for the hit.
As most football fans know, it it never a good idea to count out Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers tied up the game with less than four minutes left to play in the fourth quarter. Holding the Bengals down, the Steelers’ defense allowed their offense to do what they do best. Under two minutes left on the game clock saw Pittsburgh drive down the field under the leadership of their quarterback setting up the opportunity for kicker Chris Boswell to attempt a potential game winning 35-yard field goal. As time ran out, Boswell booted the ball through the uprights. Game over. Steelers win 23-20.