CINCINNATI, OH–In what was easily one the most bizarre games in NFL history, the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to ‘snatch’ victory from the jaws of defeat against the Cincinnati Bengals and then end up defeating the defending AFC Champions 23-20 with under a minute left in Overtime.
Kicker Chris Boswell’s 53-yarder gave the Steelers the win in front of stunned Bengals fans at Paycor Stadium.
“I’m not surprised by the fight. I knew they would fight. I found comfort in that,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “I wasn’t looking for comfort, but I found comfort in that I just saw enough of that during team development. Obviously, it was a hard-fought game on both sides, and it always is when you’re in the AFC North.”
Unfortunately, the Steelers’ victory could come at a huge cost as LB TJ Watt suffered what is believed to be a torn pectoral muscle. RB Najee Harris suffered an injury as well.
“T.J. Watt is being evaluated for an upper-body injury. Naj (Najee Harris) is being evaluated for a foot injury. Levi Wallace has an ankle injury. (Robert) Spillane has an eye injury,” Tomlin said.
A superb defensive performance (7 sacks, 4 interceptions, and a fumble recovery) guided the Steelers to a 17-6 first-half lead.
Coach Tomlin commented, “Man, when you’re playing Joe Burrow and company, you better get the ball somehow. They are not punting a lot. That’s just the function of how some of these high-powered offenses and top-notch quarterbacks are.”
Although the Steelers defense dominated, QB Mitch Tribusky and the offense struggled to add to their lead. Bengals QB Joe Burrow woke up and threw a 2-yard TD pass to WR Tyler Boyd and with the 2-point conversion, closed the Steelers lead to 17-14 in the 3rd quarter. But in the 4th quarter, Boswell’s 48-yard FG extended the Steelers’ lead to 20-14. It stayed that way until two seconds left in regulation when Burrow (33/53, 338 yards, 2 TDS, 4 Interceptions) found WR Ja’Marr Chase (10 Rec 129 yards) for a 6-yard TD to tie the game at 20. All they had to do was make the extra point to win, but K Evan McPherson’s attempt was blocked by S Minkah Fitzpatrick, sending the game into Overtime.
“It was op (operation) time. The ball didn’t get there. I’m not going to make more out of it than what it is,” said Tomlin.
In Overtime, Tribusky and the offense went nowhere on their first drive, giving the ball back to Burrow and the Bengals who swiftly drove down the field, setting up a potential game-winning FG at the Steelers’ 13-yard line. But once again, McPherson missed, giving the ball back to the Steelers.
With over 4 minutes left, Tribusky drove the Steelers into their own FG range, setting up a 56-yard attempt for Boswell. But he also missed it, giving the ball back to the Bengals with over a minute to play. But the Steelers’ defense once again stood tall as CB Arthur Maulet’s sack of Burrow knocked the Bengals out of FG range, giving the ball back to the Steelers.
On the 2nd straight drive, Tribusky (21/38, 194 yards, TD) was masterful as he completed 2 passes to TE Pat Freiermuth to get the Steelers into FG range for Boswell, who nailed the game-winner.
“He did not blink. (He) made the necessary plays in the waning moments. I’m appreciative of his efforts,” Tomlin said of Tribusky, who also scored his first TD as a Steeler when he found Harris for a 1-yard TD pass.
When asked about the performance of the offense, Tomin replied, “It was enough. We are 1-0, just like special teams and defense. We win together; we lose together. I’ll comb through it from an analysis standpoint on Tuesdays like I always do.”
Of the Steelers’ 7 sacks, LB Alex Highsmith had 3. Of the 4 interceptions, Fitzpatrick returned one for a 39-yard TD, giving the Steelers an early 7-0 lead.
So now the Steelers will return to Pittsburgh and prepare to face the New England Patriots at Acrisure Stadium for their Home Opener next Sunday.
“It’s good to come down here and get it done today. We’ll learn from these lessons and get ready for the next AFC game. Again, just appreciative of the efforts with weapons without costs,” Tomlin remarked.
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