Ben Roethlisberger threw one touchdown pass, and the Pittsburgh Steelers overcame their injury-depleted running game to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 24-17 on Sunday night.
Shaun Suisham kicked field goals of 42, 47 and 42 yards, and the Steelers clamped down on Cincinnati’s Dalton-to-Green connection, holding it to one completion.
The Steelers (3-3) won on the road for the first time this season and improved to 12-2 at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals (3-4) fell to 0-6 the last two seasons against Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
Andy Dalton’s interception set up Roethlisberger’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller and a tying 2-point conversion to the tight end with 24 seconds left in the half.
Roethlisberger was 27 of 37 for 278 yards, leading an offense missing its top two running backs and two offensive linemen to injury. Jonathan Dwyer ran 17 times for 122 yards.
Both teams needed a win to stay close to AFC North leader Baltimore (5-2), which lost 43-13 at Houston earlier Sunday. The Steelers and Bengals both came in with three losses.
The Bengals pulled ahead 14-3 by getting their running game moving behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis and turning a fumble by Roethlisberger into a touchdown.
Dalton’s only mistake helped Pittsburgh pull even before the end of the first half. He tried to pull up on a pass, but the ball slipped out of his hand and deflected off Bengals lineman Kevin Zeitler to Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley at the Cincinnati 29-yard line with 1:23 left in the half.
Roethlisberger’s pass evened it and left him 15 of 21 in the half for 138 yards with a fumble and an interception in the end zone.
The Bengals came out running the ball and had early success against the league’s fifth-ranked defense. Green-Ellis carried eight times for 44 yards on the Bengals’ first possession, converting a third down and a fourth-and-1 to keep the drive alive. Cedric Peerman carried the final 5 yards.
The Bengals took advantage of Roethlisberger’s fumble at the Pittsburgh 8-yard line in the second quarter. Dalton hit A.J. Green on the next play for a 14-3 lead.
Pittsburgh had plenty of costly mistakes. Besides Roethlisberger’s fumble, running back Baron Batch dropped a potential touchdown pass, Roethlisberger threw an interception in the end zone, and Mike Wallace dropped a third-down pass that forced the Steelers to settle for a field goal on their opening drive.
The Steelers were in a bad way with injuries that cost them their top running backs and two offensive linemen. The NLF’s 31st-ranked running game was missing Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman, as well as center Maurkice Pouncey and right tackle Marcus Gilbert. Rookie Mike Adams made his first start in Gilbert’s spot.
Plus, safety Troy Polamalu was inactive for the fourth time in the last five games with a calf injury.
That put a lot on Roethlisberger, who usually does well in his home state — 14-2 all-time in Cleveland and Cincinnati — but has rarely been so short-handed. He completed his first three passes in a game-opening drive that ended when Wallace dropped a perfect third-down throw inside the Cincinnati 15-yard line. Suisham’s 42-yard field goal made it 3-0.
It was just the start of Pittsburgh’s blown chances.
The Steelers let a touchdown slip through their fingers on their second series. Roethlisberger threw a lateral to Antonio Brown, whose left-handed pass was on target to the uncovered Batch as he headed for the goal line. The ball went through his outstretched arms.
Roethlisberger then tried to get the ball to Miller at the back of the end zone, but safety Chris Crocker picked it off.
Until Dalton’s interception, it was an invigorating half for the Bengals, who wanted to show that it can finally match up against the division’s best. They lost to Baltimore 44-13 in the season opener on Monday Night Football; they’re now 0-6 the last two seasons against the Ravens and Steelers.