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(Sunday, December 12th)
Final Score: Pittsburgh 23, Cincinnati 7
Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley both returned Carson Palmer interceptions for touchdowns to carry the Pittsburgh Steelers over the downtrodden Cincinnati Bengals, 23-7, in a battle between the best and worst of the AFC North at Heinz Field.
The Steelers (10-3) maintained the top spot in the division despite not scoring an offensive TD, as their defense held the bottom-dwelling Bengals to 190 total yards en route to a fourth straight victory.
Cincinnati (2-11) has now lost 10 straight, its longest skid since opening the 1993 campaign 0-10.
Ben Roethlisberger, playing with a bandage around the nose he broke in last week's critical win over Baltimore, connected on 21-of-33 throws for 258 yards, 115 of which going to Hines Ward on eight hookups.
Palmer continued his disastrous season with three interceptions to up his season total to 18, ending with 178 yards and a score on 20-of-32 attempts.
The Bengals took the ball 69 yards in eight plays on their opening drive, thanks in part to Ike Taylor's interference penalty on a pass intended for Chad Ochocinco that put the ball at the one. On the next play, offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth checked in as eligible, came off his block and hauled in Palmer's toss off a play-action fake for the unlikely TD.
From there it was all Steelers. Or rather, the Steelers' defense, with the duo of Polamalu and Woodley once again serving as the difference makers. In Sunday's win over the Ravens, Polamalu stripped Joe Flacco of the ball and Woodley recovered it, leading to the game-winning touchdown.
This week, Polamalu began to turn the tide late in the second quarter, picking off a pass at the Cincinnati 45 and quickly working his way up the left sideline. Just as he was getting pushed out of bounds by Palmer, the All-Pro safety made an out-stretched dive from the four to get the ball over the goal line to tie the game, 7-7, with 4:37 remaining in the half.
"Obviously we rode the wave that our defense provided today," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. "I'm glad [Polamalu] is on my team. No one is playing better in my opinion. When we need a play he provides it."
After forcing a three-and-out, the Steelers went down and added a Shaun Suisham 23-yard field goal just before the break. Cincinnati dropped two potential interceptions prior to the go-ahead kick.
Suisham was called on again for a 35-yarder after Pittsburgh stalled in the red zone in its first drive of the second half.
Cincinnati quickly punted again, but its defense came up with a big sack to push the Steelers out of field-goal range early in the fourth quarter.
Though they squandered the lengthy drive, the Steelers scored on the Bengals' next play from scrimmage, as Woodley undercut Ochocinco's out route for the easy interception and took it 14 yards the other way with 12:21 remaining in the game.
"I never even saw him. I never saw him at all. He was lost in my vision behind the offensive line," recalled Palmer of the game-sealing interception. "It's a ball I wish I could have had back."
Suisham tacked on a 41-yard field goal later in the quarter, and Polamalu fittingly sealed the win with an interception in the end zone.
A brief scrum at midfield after the game did little to quell Pittsburgh's celebration.
It was the second time in his career Polamalu took back a Palmer interception for a touchdown. The two were former teammates at USC...Jeremy Kapinos, signed this week by Pittsburgh after Daniel Sepulveda went down with a season-ending ACL tear last Sunday, punted five times for 176 yards...Cedric Benson was held to 19 yards on eight carries for the Bengals, while his counterpart, Rashard Mendenhall, logged 66 yards on 18 carries for the Steelers...Ochocinco had a team-high six receptions for 71 yards in defeat...Bengals safety Chinedum Ndukwe suffered what appeared to be a significant left knee injury in the second quarter.
12/12 18:06:07 ET
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