PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers know exactly how to beat the Cincinnati Bengals — with or without Chad Ocho Cinco.
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu (43) brings down Cincinnati Bengals running back Chris Perry (23) after a gain of 15-yards during the fourth quarter of a NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008. The Steelers won 27-10.
(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
The Steelers limited the depleted Bengals to six first downs following an early touchdown drive and found just enough offense themselves amid the snow flurries to control the clock behind Roethlisberger and beat Cincinnati 27-10 on Thursday night.
Pittsburgh (8-3) wasn't dominating — except defensively — in winning its fifth in a row over Cincinnati (1-9-1), its longest streak since an eight-game run in the early 1990s. The Steelers trailed 7-0 until Roethlisberger threw a 3-yard pass to tight end Heath Miller, their first touchdown in more than seven quarters, and didn't take control until backup running backs Mewelde Moore and Gary Russell led a third-quarter drive that made it 20-7.
Russell ran 2 yards for his first NFL touchdown with 16 seconds left in the third after Moore, benched four days before after being stopped at the goal line by San Diego on fourth-and-inches, ran four times for 21 yards and made a 22-yard reception during a 64-yard drive.
Roethlisberger, turnover free for a second successive game while going 17 of 30 for 243 yards, scored himself from the 8 late in the game as Pittsburgh held a more than 10-minute edge in time of possession.
Jeff Reed also kicked field goals of 37 and 38 yards that weren't sure things given the slippery field conditions that helped slow a Bengals offense that was loaded with backups due to injuries — reserves played most of the game at nine positions — and Ocho Cinco's deactivation for violating team rules.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, under constant pressure from a Pittsburgh defense that leads the NFL in almost every major statistical category, was below 100 yards in passing until a brief drive in the fourth quarter that ended with Shayne Graham's 26-yard field goal. He finished 20-of-37 for 168 yards, but the Bengals were outgained 364-208.
For most of the game, the Bengals were as frigid as the weather. The game time temperature of 32 with a wind chill in the low 20s didn't prevent Pittsburgh's defensive starters from playing in shirt sleeves — much like the late Mike Webster, the Hall of Fame center, once did in miserably cold games during the 1970s.
Ocho Cinco's absence allowed the Steelers to double cover T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who was coming off eight consecutive games with six or more catches but found little open space downfield and ended with four catches for 20 yards.
The Steelers, held without a touchdown during the first 11-10 victory in NFL history against San Diego, got off to another slow start offensively before scoring on Miller's catch in traffic in the end zone, but not until Cincinnati scored first on Fitzpatrick's 10-yard pass to Glenn Holt on third-and-6 late in the first. Holt, getting more playing time because of Ocho Cinco's absence, hadn't caught a pass all season until making one ahead of his TD catch.
Pittsburgh, getting good field position because of Kyle Larson's 30-yard punt in a game in which both punters were miserable, tied it two plays after coach Mike Tomlin went for it on fourth-and-1 from the 4, with Russell barely getting the yard to keep the drive going. Roethlisberger hit Hines Ward for 37 yards earlier in the drive.
Reed's 37-yarder with 1:52 left before halftime put Pittsburgh ahead at 10-7. Cincinnati had a chance to tie it or go ahead but couldn't take advantage after Pittsburgh wide receiver Limas Sweed, covering a punt, accidentally allowed the ball to strike his left hand.
The Bengals recovered at the Steelers' 39 with a minute left in the half, but gained only five yards and were out of field goal range when Fitzpatrick threw incomplete on fourth down.
Reed's 38-yarder into a snowy crosswind had just enough distance to make it 13-7 halfway through the third quarter.