Bengals 21

(1-10, 1-5 away)

Steelers 29

(6-4-1, 3-1-1 home)

Coverage: CBS

1:00 PM ET, November 24, 2002


1 2 3 4 T
CIN 0 14 0 721
PIT 14 3 3 929

Bengals storm back, then fall apart on final drive

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers still don't know how to play with a huge lead. Good thing for them they were playing the Cincinnati Bengals.

Allen's Analysis
Eric Allen
Question on the Bengals: Is Chad Johnson developing into a Pro Bowl-caliber wideout?
Before you become a Pro Bowl receiver, you need to establish yourself as a consistently productive go-to guy on your team. Johnson is an up-and-coming receiver, but not in the Pro Bowl category yet. Stay tuned, though.

Question on the Steelers: Is their defense playing well enough to be a serious threat in the playoffs?
The Steelers' linebackers are playing extremely well, which masks some of their deficiencies on the defensive line. They've also struggled covering receivers man-to-man downfield. When you play four quarters in the playoffs against a quality opponent, your weaknesses will show. I think the Steelers will make the playoffs, but I think their defensive liabilities will hurt them once they get there.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

The Steelers frittered away a 17-point lead for the second straight home game, only to rally for a 29-21 victory Sunday after the bumbling Bengals fumbled away a punt and a late lead.

The Bengals (1-10) led 21-20 until T.J. Houshmandzadeh's fumbled punt with 6{ minutes led to rookie Jeff Reed's third field goal in his first NFL game. Jerome Bettis followed with his second touchdown on a 79-yard rushing day that moved him past O.J. Simpson into 11th place in NFL career rushing.

But when Reed missed the extra point, the Bengals still had a chance to force overtime. They drove to a first down at the Steelers 5 in the final minute before Jon Kitna threw four straight incompletions, with Chad Scott knocking away a pass intended for Chad Johnson on fourth down.

"I think we just got fed up,'' Steelers safety Brent Alexander said. "We all said to each other, 'Don't be the guy (to give up the touchdown).' ''

In a similar situation last week, Corey Dillon twice couldn't get into the end zone from the 1 in the final minute of a 27-20 Bengals loss to Cleveland.

"I say it over and over, but it's true,'' Johnson said. "It's just a play here and a play there. We don't make a play and it kills us.''

Kordell Stewart replaced the injured Tommy Maddox to go 22-of-26 for 236 yards, but the Steelers stalled for more than two quarters after surging to a 17-0 lead.

"I was like a kid playing in a sand box,'' Stewart said, and not just because the sandy Heinz Field turf was in terrible shape. "I was excited just to have an opportunity again.''

Especially since Maddox, who made a quick recovery from the scary injury in Tennessee last week that left him temporarily paralyzed, might return Sunday against Jacksonville. Coach Bill Cowher will decide after Maddox sees his doctor early this week.

With the Steelers' offense coming out conservatively in Stewart's first start since Sept. 29, Hines Ward ran for 39 yards on a reverse, leading to Bettis' 1-yard scoring run. On the Steelers' second possession, Ward bounced off defensive back Kevin Kaesviharm on a 64-yard scoring pass play, his 11th touchdown of the season.

Reed, the former North Carolina kicker who won a four-man tryout last week to replace the injured Todd Peterson, made it 17-0 early in the second quarter with a 33-yarder on his first NFL attempt, drawing huge cheers.

"I was nervous at the start, but then I got that out of the way,'' said Reed, who signed after Peterson missed four of six attempts the last two weeks.

Just as in their 34-all tie with Atlanta two weeks ago, a 17-point lead wasn't nearly enough for the Steelers (6-4-1).

Kitna, who passed for a career-high 411 yards in a 26-23 upset of Pittsburgh last December, suddenly began finding big gaps in the Steelers' secondary. He directed touchdown drives of 75 and 98 yards, finished off each time by Dillon runs. Kitna hit Peter Warrick for 36 yards and Chad Johnson for 19 on the first drive, and Johnson for 55 over the middle and 19 yards on the second drive.

Suddenly it was 17-14, a lead that held up until Reed hit from 43 yards midway through the third period. Reed was 3-of-4 in his Pittsburgh debut, missing only a 51-yarder and the extra point.

But after Stewart was stacked up for no gain on fourth-and-1 early in the fourth quarter, Kitna threw a 21-yard scoring pass to rookie tight end Matt Schobel with 8:35 remaining that put Cincinnati up 21-20. The key play on the drive was Kitna's 21-yard completion to Johnson on third-and-10.

"We were really in control of the game,'' Bengals coach Dick LeBeau said. "We had a one-point lead and in pretty good shape to win the game -- and we didn't win it.''

About then, the Bengals probably wished they hadn't passed up two potential 46-yard field-goal chances by Neil Rackers because of the treacherous turf. Players slid and slipped all day on the threadbare grass, which got chewed up Friday when four high school football playoff games were played on a snowy day.

Game notes

About an hour after the game, crews began digging up the grass, which will be replaced for Saturday's West Virginia-Pitt game. This is the third time this year the grass has been replaced. ... Ward, who had his third straight 100-yard game, is the first Steelers receiver with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons since Roy Jefferson (1968-69). ... Bengals kick returner Brandon Bennett hyperextended his right knee on a 52-yard return to start the second half and didn't return. ... Steelers RG Kendall Simmons (right knee) also left in the second half.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Scoring Summary

pitTD3:00Jerome Bettis, 24 yd run
Drive info: 2 plays, 61 yds, 0:-01
Drive info: 3 plays, 71 yds, 0:36
Drive info: 3 plays, 71 yds, 0:36
pitFG4:48Jeff Reed 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 4 plays, 1 yds, 0:52
pitFG6:27Jeff Reed 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 3 plays, 32 yds, 0:16
cinTD7:45Corey Dillon, 10 yd run
Drive info: 7 plays, 75 yds, 2:10
pitTD10:00Jerome Bettis, 1 yd run
Drive info: 9 plays, 68 yds, 5:35
Drive info: 7 plays, 75 yds, 2:10
Drive info: 9 plays, 64 yds, 3:44
Drive info: 9 plays, 68 yds, 5:35
Drive info: 9 plays, 64 yds, 3:44
cinTD1:08Corey Dillon, 2 yd run
Drive info: 10 plays, 96 yds, 4:17
Drive info: 10 plays, 96 yds, 4:17
pitFG10:55Jeff Reed 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 11 plays, 56 yds, 15:05