Big Steelers’ Turnover Wins 16 -10 Against Bengals

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Quarterback Jake Browning during the Steelers vs. Bengals game at Paycor Stadium in Week 12 of 2023.

A crucial AFC North game was ruined by the Steelers’ signature defense and revitalized offense on a soggy, cold Sunday at Paycor Stadium, as they defeated the Bengals 16-10 to quarterback Jake Browning’s first NFL start.

The defense consistently pressured Browning with four sacks as he finished 19 of 26 for 227 yards for a 96.2 passer rating, which was good but not good enough to outduel Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett. The 7-4 Steelers took the lead late in the game with their first 400-yard game in 59 games with 421.

Before the kneel down, Pickett connected eight of sixteen passes for 278 yards, the second-most in his career. Pickett dominated on third down.

Evan McPherson’s 47-yard field goal with 2:04 remaining gave the 5-6 Bengals a 16-10 lead, but the Steelers recovered the on-side kick that followed.

In a match between the Steelers, who lead the NFL in turnover differential, and the Bengals, who are tied for third place, Browning knew he had to avoid making a costly mistake.

That did not occur during the second half’s crucial opening series. The Bengals had a fantastic opportunity to score a lot of points since they were up 7-3 against the NFL’s 28th-ranked offense. Nevertheless, Browning took a shot at wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase in the flat on third-and-seven from the Steelers 18 (they got down there on wide receiver Chase’s contested 25-yard catch against Joey Porter Jr.). Safety Trenton Thompson was out there buzzing and undercut the route for Browning’s first NFL interception.

With 1:34 remaining in the third quarter, the Steelers, as they usually seem to do, made it bleed and put together a devastating 14-play touchdown drive to grab a 10-7 lead. In his first game under a new offensive coordinator, Pickett converted three third downs on short throws, two of which went to the mysterious tight end Freiermuth on his unexpected day of 120 yards. With safety Dax Hill draped over Freiermuth, the last one turned a third-and-six and set up a touchdown run by running back Najee Harris.

On the subsequent drive, Browning was not helped by penalties. A holding penalty was made against tight end Irv Smith Jr., and tight end Tanner Hudson’s interception foiled quarterback Matt Browning’s three-yard slant to slot receiver Tyler Boyd on third-and-two. The following third-down play, Browning hesitated to pass into the zone and was sacked by Hall of Famer Cam Heyward.

The Bengals were unable to get off the field on third down during another drive by the Steelers, who now led 13–7. In front of slot cornerback Mike Hilton on third-and-nine, Pickett found wide receiver Diontae Johnson over the middle. On third-and-eight, he connected to wide receiver George Pickens for 43 yards behind Hilton.

With around eight minutes remaining in the game, rookie cornerback D.J. Turner batted the ball away from Diontae Johnson near the goal line, forcing a field goal with a superb third down play.

Prior to ending with four catches for 81 yards in the second half, Chase had three targets in the first half and had two receptions for 42 yards. He also made a spectacular play on the only scoring drive of the half.

Mykal Walker, a linebacker for the Steelers, sprang and deflected a throw in the center of the field. Chase recovered the rebound and ran for a 31-yard play, similar to what occurred to the Bengals in Baltimore last week. Then, faking a double tight end look to Mixon, Browning rolled left and flipped a screen to tight end Drew Sample, an old teammate from the University of Washington.

Sample scored his second touchdown of the year and his third overall in his five-year career by trailing tight end Mitchell Wilcox into the end zone.

With 10:30 remaining in the first half, Browning completed all four of his throws for a 7-3 lead for the Bengals.

Then, doing his best Joe Burrow impression, Browning shifted to his left, out of a specific sack, and lofted a 25-yard pass down the middle to wide receiver Trenton Irwin. And they added fifteen more when Browning was leveled late by T.J. Watt.

At the two-minute warning, the Bengals were in possession of the ball at the Steelers’ 48. Instead of scoring points and then receiving the ball on the second-half kickoff, they punted into the end zone after three incompletions, which wasted 15 seconds.

The fourth Steelers punt of the half was forced by the Bengals defense, who had given up some huge plays early on. Reluctant to give up a holding penalty on the previous play, tackle B.J. Hill reached Pickett on third down after rookie edge Myles Murphy made the first contact.

While running back Joe Mixon got five yards on five runs before ending with eight for sixteen, Browning ended the half nine of twelve for 101 yards. The Steelers outgained them, 221-98, in the half to outgaine a team for the first time this season.

The Bengals defense was plagued by huge plays even after they had allowed 13 pass plays of 20 yards or more in the previous two games. Despite strong coverage by rookie cornerback D.J. Turner, they gave up three touchdowns in the opening sixteen minutes, the latest coming on a magnificent 39-yard pass from Pickett to wide receiver Diontae Johnson down the right sideline.

They were also battling Freiermuth and his 89-yard half, which he had just 60 yards overall at the start of an injury-plagued season.

However, the Bengals defense had solutions and calmed down long enough to provide the team a chance to win the game in the closing minutes.

Tight end Zach Carter and linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither stymied running back Jaylen Warren on a third-and-two in the Bengals red zone. Carter then batted the ball to cause a fumble that Turner picked up, giving the Bengals a 28-yard return to their 39.

Hilton, a former Steeler, forced a punt on the first series and earned his fourth tackle for a loss of the year when he was all over a screen to Diontae Johnson. With five stops in the first half, including two for a loss, Hilton-a Bengals captain this Sunday with Pittsburgh native Tyler Boyd-was all over the place.

The Bengals were able to keep the run game to 79 yards until the Steelers took the lead and finished with 153, even though Pickett was 13 of 19 for 150 yards.

Published by : Reshraman

 

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