Monday, November 8, 2010

MNF Live Blog/Game Notes: Pittsburgh Travels to Cincinnati

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals face off in this fierce AFC North division battle. The 5-2 Steelers are looking to join the 6-2 Baltimore Ravens atop the division while Carson Palmer and his 2-5 Bengals are just trying to stay in the playoff hunt.
*Cincinnati fumbles the opening kickoff, forced by rookie wideout Emmanuel Sanders, and the Steelers take advantage of the short field as Rashard Mendenhall takes it in from one yard out.

*Less than ten minutes later veteran kicker Jeff Reed extends the early lead to 10 with a 25-yard field goal.

*Fast fact: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is 11-2 in his career in Ohio (6-1, 5-1 @ Browns/Bengals).

*Update after opening quarter: Cincinnati has run the ball with Benson nine times already (41 yards), with only four pass attempts from Carson Palmer. Good to see the Bengals are not panicking despite the slow start.

*Special team miscues are the only difference in this game so far, but they may have made up for those as they just downed a punt inside Pittsburgh's two-yard line.

*Isaac Redman, Pittsburgh's short yardage back, starts this drive off with a run up the middle. Interesting stat from coach Jon Gruden: Cincinnati has allowed the most scoring drives of 80-plus yards this season.

*Something to watch out for throughout the remainder of the game is Terrell Owens, who was rolled up on while blocking during Cincinnati's last offensive drive. He looks to be a little shaken but stayed in the game. Not too serious, but no reason why you shouldn't keep an eye out.

*Despite his costly fumble last Sunday night against the Saints, tight end Heath Miller has been very reliable throughout his career and may be one of Roethlisberger's most underrated targets coming off the line.

*Another injury to Pittsburgh's offensive line, it's rookie center Maurkice Pouncey this time as we take another injury timeout. Big Ben has already had to shake off quite a few defenders to avoid any and all sack opportunities for Cincy's defense. This could prove costly for the Steelers' offensive attack.

*Any more injuries to the Steelers' line and they may have to use a backup defensive lineman as Big Ben's center.

*Hines Ward's streak of games with a reception has been extended to 186, just four behind Marvin Harrison's 190, and almost a hundred behind Jerry Rice's 274.

*Costly fumble for the Steelers, giving Cincinnati it's first scoring opportunity. This will be important for the Bengals. If they don't take advantage they may be in for some trouble later on.

*Palmer-T.O. connection cuts the Steelers lead to just three, 10-7 after the extra point. Both touchdowns have been the result of costly turnovers...Terrell Owens now has three receptions for 49 yards and a score in about a quarter and a half of play. The touchdown is No. 150 for Owens, just three shy of Randy Moss's 153.

*With eight minutes remaining in the second quarter, both Pouncey and Chris Kemoeatu continue to be out of the game. Pouncey had to go to the locker room while Kemoeatu is sitting on the sideline attempting to get taped up. Stay tuned for more injury updates when I get them.

*Owens has quickly become Palmer's go-to guy this season as he makes yet another catch, his fourth of the evening. Ochocinco has attracted more defenders, giving Owens, the future Hall of Famer, plenty of open looks thus far.

*Palmer looking like a rookie out there with that interception, throwing in to triple coverage on third down. That now gives Pittsburgh two first half turnovers and Big Ben gets the ball at about midfield with plenty of time to work with to try and add to the lead before the half.

*Hines Ward's 83 career touchdown (second on franchise's all-time list behind HOFer Franco Harris) comes with just over two minutes remaining. Despite recent struggles in the red zone this season, Roethlisberger finds Mr. Reliable for a short 8-yard touchdown to extend the lead back to 10 points.

*Mike Wallace has made a couple of nice grabs tonight, but that last drop was very costly. Pittsburgh is forced to attempt a 53-yard field goal. Jeff Reed, a pretty reliable veteran kicker, drills it, tying his career-high.

*Halftime score: Steelers 20, Bengals 7. Pittsburgh will receive the ball to start the second half, coming up in about 10 minutes.

**Cincinnati's pressure finally gets to Roethlisberger as he tries to avoid the rush. Robert Geathers records Cincy's first sack of the night as they force the 3&out on the opening drive of the second half.

**Relatively quiet so far tonight (five tackles, two for loss), James Harrison is shaken up on the field, forcing another injury timeout. When the game resumes Cincinnati will be facing fourth down, giving Pittsburgh the ball back.

**Both teams have exchanged punts throughout the third quarter, with the defenses dominated on both sides of the ball. About two and a half minutes to play in the quarter and the score is still 20-7. For Pittsburgh, James Farrior, James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley have all recorded sacks on Palmer as Pittsburgh gets the ball back once again.

**If Mendenhall can put the ball in the end zone during this drive, they could put the game away despite having a full quarter left to play. Terrell Owens seems to be the only Bengal still playing hard. Even Carson seems to have given up all hope...this game is a must-win for Cincy and it doesn't look like they want it at all. Shameful, really.

**End of quarter three, scoreless quarter. Just two penalties apiece throughout the game, and almost all of the statistical categories (except the score, of course) seem to be relatively even. If Cincinnati can get a defensive stop and get their heads back in the game they could turn it around. They have to want it for this to work, though.

**You can erase that whole last statement. Pittsburgh uses trickery (WR option pass from Randle El to Mike Wallace) for a long 39-yard touchdown pass, taking advantage of the injury to Cincy's Chris Crocker, who came out of the game after suffering an injury in the third quarter. 27-7 Pittsburgh, 14:50 remaining in the game.

**Owens is putting on a clinic for Pittsburgh's secondary as he makes his second touchdown catch of the night (151st of his prolonged career), which also happened to be his eighth catch of the game, giving him 118 yards through the air. Pittsburgh needs to establish the run game this drive in order to run out some clock...27-14 with just over 13 minutes to play.

**Another opportunity for Cincinnati to take advantage of as safety Roy Williams picks off Roethlisberger after an errant misses tight end Heath Miller. And, to top it all off, there was yet another injury timeout for Isaac Redman (turns out he's ok) and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Flozell Adams. Palmer has a shot at turning this thing around.

**Oh my, a late pass interference call made against Ike Taylor as he was covering Owens in the end zone. Cincinnati gets the ball at the one. Looks like I spoke too soon with the "not many penalties" statement.

**Benson punches it in from one yard out, Newgent kicks the extra point throught the uprights...27-21 with under 10 to play. Boy have the tables turned in the past four minutes of play. Looks for a fantastic finish in this game.

**Looks like one of my above statements was jinxed once again. The "usually pretty reliable veteran" kicker Jeff Reed missed from 46 yards out and his 2010 struggles continue (sixth miss this season, most of which have come at very bad times).

**The missed field goal gives Cincinnati solid field position to start as we hit the two minute warning..

**Cincinnati put together a solid-looking drive, but it sputtered a bit with a 10-yard holding penalty and a couple of dropped passes. Pittsburgh's defense held up in the end as Cincinnati turned the ball over on downs and Roethlisberger kneeled the ball a couple of times.

---Pittsburgh survives late scare to improve to 6-2, tied with Baltimore atop division (Baltimore holds head-to-head tiebreaker), while Cincinnati drops to 2-6. Hope you enjoyed following the action here on my blog. Come back next week for more live blog action!

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