With its season backed into a corner, beset by injuries and in desperate need of its first road victory, Pittsburgh did what Pittsburgh traditionally does in those situations: It found a way to win.
Pittsburgh recovered from a sloppy first half for a 24-17 victory at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday night. Since drafting Dalton and Green, the Bengals have lost all six games against AFC standard-bearers Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The Steelers (3-3) lost their first three road games of the year, but avoided a fourth defeat by cutting off Cincinnati star A.J. Green.
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau shaded coverage toward Green, who entered as the NFL's leading receiver and forced the Bengals (3-4) to beat them with a collection of unproven receivers on the opposite side. Nobody could. Instead, Green was targeted six times and caught but one pass – a 6-yard touchdown reception. Without Green's production, the Steelers held Cincinnati to one first down and 28 yards on their final five drives.
Meanwhile, a Steelers team that supposedly can't run wheeled out third-string running back Jonathan Dwyer behind second-string center Doug Legursky and second-string right tackle Mike Adams and gained 167 yards rushing on 29 attempts.
When the game turned: With the Bengals leading 14-6 and driving in the final minutes of the first half, they saw an opportunity to take control of the game and punish Pittsburgh for a sloppy first half. Instead, Dalton attempted to pull back on a pass, couldn't hold it and the ball caromed off the helmet of offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler and into the arms of Steelers LB Lamarr Woodley . Six plays, 29 yards, a touchdown and two-point conversion later, what was a dominant first half for Cincinnati flipped to a tie game at halftime.
Highlight moments: The Steelers ran a wide receiver pass in the first quarter and the trick play broke RB Baron Batch wide open down the sideline. Only, as Brown's pass came down perfectly in stride to Batch, it went directly through the receiver's hands. … With the game tied during the final minutes of the third quarter, QB Ben Roethlisberger hit WR Emmanuel Sanders on a short crossing route on third-and-6. Sanders broke free into the open field for 31 yards and set up the eventual game-winning touchdown by RB Chris Rainey.
- Steelers WR Antonio Brown – Seven receptions for 96 yards on eight targets.
- Steelers RB Jonathan Dwyer – 17 rushes for 122 yards.
- Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger – 27 of 37 for 278 yards, one touchdown, one interception.
- Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict – career-high 15 tackles, 13 of the solo variety and two TFL.
What they said about holding A.J. Green to one reception:
- Bengals WR A.J. Green -- “It's definitely frustrating. I feel like they clouded my side a lot, buzzed a linebacker or safety underneath whenever I am running underneath. That is a great defense and great defenses do stuff like that. So, hats off to them.”
- Bengals QB Andy Dalton -- “They definitely knew where he was. They were running to him on different things, but we got to do better in the passing game."
- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin – “You know, big-time ball for us. Like we said though, it was a collective effort – rush, coverage. Dick called a good game. We mixed in some zones.”
Numbers you should know: The Bengals ran nine times for 49 yards on the first drive of the game, a 15-play jaunt to take a 7-0 lead. They ran 12 times for 31 yards the rest of the game. … Pittsburgh entered the game tops in the league on third-down conversions with a rate of 51 percent. The Bengals did nothing to cut that number, allowing the Steelers to convert 10 of 16 times (63 percent). … Dalton threw one interception. He's now thrown at least one interception in all seven games this season. He's the second quarterback in franchise history to open the season with such a streak. The other was Carson Palmer in 2004. … The Bengals and Steelers were tied at halftime. The last time the Bengals didn't trail Pittsburgh at halftime was Sept. 24, 2006.
Pittsburgh water cooler talk: The Steelers blew four chances at big gains or touchdowns in the first half because of dropped passes. WR Mike Wallace dropped four, including one in the end zone. Batch dropped a WR pass from Brown while running all alone toward paydirt.
Injury update: Bengals – Rookie WR Marvin Jones was set to earn extra playing time Sunday night with WR Armon Binns (ankle) inactive. Instead, the rookie fifth-round pick injured his knee on the Bengals' first kick return and didn't return. Steelers – C Maurkice Pouncey was inactive after being listed as questionable during the week.
Going forward: Bengals -- Cincinnati heads into a bye week in desperate need of introspection. They've now lost three in a row and are 2-4 in the AFC. A failed opportunity to put distance between themselves and the Steelers leaves them facing an uphill battle in the division and the Broncos and Giants are waiting after the break … Steelers -- The season suddenly looks much brighter for Pittsburgh. As many problems as they've experienced through the first six games, they are now at .500 and only a game and a half back of the Ravens, who lost to Houston on Sunday. They return home to host the Redskins next week.
Follow Paul Dehner Jr. for Bengals updates on Twitter at @CBSBengals.