The Pittsburgh Steelers scored 21 first-quarter points and coasted to a 30-20 win over the division-rival Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night, keeping alive their slim postseason hopes.
Pittsburgh's defense was key, though, holding the Bengals to just 279 total yards—much of which came late when the game was mostly decided—on 67 plays (4.16 yards per play).
With the loss, Cincy falls to 9-5 and keeps the New England Patriots, who lost on Sunday afternoon, in the No. 2 spot in the AFC postseason picture:
Marvin Lewis wasn't happy with his team's lackluster performance, via Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson:
After Bell scored on a one-yard touchdown following a botched Cincinnati punt to open the scoring, Antonio Brown took over the first quarter. He capped off a 47-yard drive with a 12-yard TD reception, and he then took the Bengals' next punt 67 yards to the house:
Just like that, the Steelers had a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Brown went on to finish the game with five catches and 66 yards, extending this impressive streak:
Shaun Suisham added a field goal before and after a one-yard Giovani Bernard touchdown plunge, and the Steelers took a 27-7 lead into the locker room.
Following another Suisham field goal, the Bengals finally woke up in the fourth quarter, as Dalton threw touchdown passes to Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones to make things somewhat interesting, but it was too little, too late.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: B+
Big Ben was efficient, and that's all that was necessary.
He threw the ball just 25 times, but he completed 80 percent of those throws for 7.6 yards per attempt and generally picked apart the Bengals as needed. As usual, he also extended plays with his legs.
While Roethlisberger's numbers don't jump out at you, and he threw a bad interception near the end zone, it was mostly a very solid performance for the veteran.
Andy Dalton, Bengals: B-
Dalton didn't turn the ball over, so he had that going for him. Unfortunately, he also struggled to move the ball down the field consistently, needing 44 throws to tally 230 yards (5.2 yards per attempt).
The up-and-down QB made some good throws, and drops hurt him somewhat, but inconsistent pocket protection forced him to hurry lots of passes and prevented him from converting many big plays.
Give credit to a stifling Pittsburgh defense, but Dalton will have to be better than this on most nights.
Le'Veon Bell, Steelers: A-
This is pretty much all you need to know:
Bell may have only averaged 2.4 yards per carry, but he ran hard, finished every touch by lowering his shoulder and racked up lots of yards after initial contact. He was also a major factor in the passing game, totaling 50 yards on five receptions.
Displaying an impressive blend of quickness, toughness and strength, the rookie proved once again that he has a very bright future.
The Bengals head home, where they are undefeated, for the last two weeks of the season against the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens.
Pittsburgh will attempt to get back to .500 at Lambeau Field against the Packers and back in Pittsburgh against the Cleveland Browns.