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(Sunday, November 15th)
Final Score: Cincinnati 18, Pittsburgh 12
Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - Shayne Graham kicked four field goals, including two in the final eight minutes, and the Cincinnati Bengals took sole possession of first place in the AFC North with an 18-12 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
"That's a big win. It was a grinding football game, probably the most physically grinding game I've been on the sideline to experience," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said.
The Bengals (7-2) swept the season series against their division rival for the first time since 1998 despite starting running back Cedric Benson leaving the game early with a hip strain.
Bernard Scott scored the only touchdown of the game on a 96-yard kickoff return for the Bengals, who have won three straight. The rookie also led the club in rushing with 33 yards on 13 carries.
Carson Palmer had a subpar outing in victory, throwing for 178 yards on 18- of-30 efficiency, while Chad Ochocinco had just two catches for 29 yards.
Ben Roethlisberger was pressured throughout and threw four straight incompletions during Pittsburgh's final drive to end the comeback bid. The QB finished with 174 yards and an interception, while Rashard Mendenhall was held to 36 yards on 13 carries for the Steelers (6-3), who had their eight-game home winning streak snapped.
"We weren't able to get the job done today," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. "I think the Bengals had a lot to do with that. I congratulate those guys. That's a good football team."
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu only played one series, as he appeared to aggravate the same knee injury that caused him to miss four games earlier this year.
Pittsburgh, working on a short week after a Monday night win over Denver, was down 15-12 after Graham hit a 32-yarder to cap a nine-play, 50-yard drive with 7:29 remaining.
The Bengals then forced a three-and-out and held the ball for the next four- plus minutes, thanks in part to a 15-yard personal foul on James Harrison.
Scott was tackled for a loss on 3rd-and-3 from the Pittsburgh 23 at the two- minute warning, and Graham was true from 43 yards out to extend Cincinnati's cushion.
The Bengals defense sealed the win quickly, forcing four straight incompletions to pull off the rare sweep of the perennial division contender.
Graham clanked a 51-yard attempt off the right upright on Cincinnati's first drive, and the Steelers opened the game's scoring on Jeff Reed's 28-yard field goal with 4:43 left in the first quarter.
Scott took the ensuing kickoff off the bounce near the right sideline, worked his way to the other side of the field and through the coverage team en route to a 96-yard TD. A bad hold resulted in an unsuccessful extra point.
It remained 6-3 until Reed tied it on a 33-yarder with 4:13 remaining in the half, as a coverage sack on 3rd-and-goal from the eight brought out the kicking unit.
Cincinnati went three-and-out and the Steelers benefited from a 46-yard pass interference penalty on Chinedum Ndukwe. Pittsburgh only mustered a 35-yard Reed field goal, though, and took a 9-6 lead into the locker room.
Frostee Rucker came up with an interception on the third play of the third quarter after Morgan Trent batted a Roethlisberger pass in the air. The defensive end returned the pick 26 yards to the Pittsburgh 14, but the Steelers hung tough and forced a 23-yard Graham field goal.
A poor Pittsburgh punt gave the Bengals a short field minutes later. Scott caught a 21-yard pass to bring it down to Pittsburgh's 18, but again the offense stalled and Graham came in for a 32-yard kick.
LaMarr Woodley came up with a big sack of Palmer on Cincy's next drive, bringing the QB down at his own one on third down. The Steelers took over at midfield and gained two first downs before the third quarter ended.
Roethlisberger barreled ahead for a first down on 4th-and-1 from the Cincy 12, but a holding penalty halted the march. Reed tied the game with a 34-yard kick with 11:20 left to play.
Cincinnati is off to its best start since the 2005 squad also opened the season 7-2... Pittsburgh swept home-and-homes against Cincinnati in 2007 and 2008...The Steelers had won five straight since losing to the Bengals in Week 3...The Bengals played without guard Evan Mathis and linebacker Keith Rivers...Laveranues Coles led the Bengals with five catches for 67 yards...Santonio Holmes caught seven balls for 88 yards for the Steelers.
11/15 18:27:52 ET