CINCINNATI — The Steelers simply couldn’t overcome an ugly first half, with their comeback bid falling short in a 27-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on Monday.
The Steelers fell into a 17-point whole almost completely because of the mistakes made by the Pittsburgh offense, a Ben Roethlisberger fumble, a JuJu Smith-Schuster fumble and a Roethlisberger interception set the Bengals up with good field position three times in the first half.
Cincinnati took advantage, first with a field goal and then with Giovanni Bernard scoring on a four-yard rush off tackle and a 14-yard pass from Ryan Finley.
The Steelers’ offense in the first half was woeful, with the team getting just two net passing yards and 40 total yards in the first thirty minutes while turning the ball over the three times.
Things changed on both sides of the ball in the second half. The Steelers’ offense caught fire, with Roethlisberger connecting on 60 yards’ worth of passing on two plays to Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson, the latter a 23-yard touchdown, on the opening drive of the half.
The next Pittsburgh drive stalled in the red zone and ended with a Chris Boswell field goal, and it appeared the comeback was on.
But the Bengals finally broke through for a long drive against the Pittsburgh defense, with Finley taking it himself for a backbreaking 23-yard run on a zone read that fooled rookie outside linebacker Alex Highsmith.
The Steelers drew back to within a score after a Benny Snell 1-yard touchdown, but the final offensive possession failed
The Steelers have now lost three straight games, falling to 11-3 after starting the season 11-0 while the Bengals are 3-11-1, snapping a five-game losing streak.
The Steelers failed to secure a division title, needing a win or a Cleveland loss in Week 15. They will host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. That game is scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m.