On to Cincinnati

The Pittsburgh Steelers will head somewhere this weekend where no one thought they could go -- to the first-place Cincinnati Bengals.

After an emotional loss to their most bitter divisional rival, Baltimore, the Pittsburgh Steelers must find a way to rebound against one of the most surprising teams in football.

"We'll lick our wounds and we have another tough one next week," said defensive end Brett Keisel. "There's a lot of football left to play."

The Bengals are tied with the Ravens at 6-2 in first place in the AFC North Division. Having lost to Baltimore twice, the Steelers would have to finish a game ahead of the Ravens in order to beat them out for the division title -- unless the Bengals remain involved.

"We've got Cincinnati coming up, and that's another fight," cornerback William Gay said. "That's what we're going to shift our focus over to."

The Steelers were glum after their loss at home to Baltimore, 23-20, Sunday night. Pittsburgh, trailing by 10 in the fourth quarter, took a 20-16 lead after two touchdown drives. But Baltimore went on a 92-yard drive in the final 2 1/2 minutes and Joe Flacco found rookie Torrey Smith in the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown pass over Gay.

Flacco completed 7 of 13 passes for all 92 yards against what was the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL going into the game.

"That was, on my part, the worst drive ever," said Gay.

It's the first time Baltimore has swept the season series against Pittsburgh since 2006. Flacco had never beaten Ben Roethlisberger before this season and now he's done it twice.

"They are the better team," safety Ryan Clark said. "They are a better football team than we are right now."

Baltimore clobbered the Steelers 35-7 in the opener but this one was quite different, a game of field goals until the third quarter and then three touchdowns in the fourth.

After beating Tom Brady and the New England Patriots the week before, Pittsburgh had the best record in the AFC and beating Baltimore would have cemented that. Now, they only have the third-best record in their own division.

The Steelers have won seven of their past nine games against the Bengals and 11 of the past 15. They swept their two games against Cincinnati last season.

Roethlisberger and his offense are leaning more heavily on the pass. He threw for 330 yards against the Ravens, the first quarterback in team history to pass for 300 yards in three consecutive games.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

LINEUP WATCH: Jeremy Kapinos is back punting for the Steelers and Daniel Sepulveda went on injured reserve for the third time in the past four seasons. Sepulveda had his ACL torn in 2008 and again last December but this time it was cartilage/meniscus, so he should be ready to punt again next year -- wherever that may be. He will have surgery this week. Kapinos punted well for the Steelers after Sepulveda's injury last season and again in training camp for them this summer.

TRENDING: Ben Roethlisberger has taken every snap at quarterback this season, but two teammates have completed passes. Daniel Sepulveda faked a punt and completed a 33-yard pass. Receiver Emmanuel Sanders took a handoff and completed a 15-yard pass.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

* LB LaMarr Woodley missed his first game since Nov. 9, 2008, the only one he has missed since he became a starter that season, his second. Sunday ended his streak at 53 consecutive starts, including the post-season.

* LB James Farrior missed his second consecutive start with a calf injury. Before that, he had not missed a start since 2005. An ironman of sorts at age 36, Farrior started 96 consecutive games, including 11 in the post-season. He last missed a game on Nov. 20, 2005.

* LB James Harrison returned to start after missing four games with a broken orbital bone, an injury that occurred Oct. 2 at Houston. He had three sacks, causing a fumble on one of them.

* WR Emmanuel Sanders missed Sunday's game because his mother died and he did not practice all week. He should return for this week's game in Cincinnati.

* WR Hines Ward did not have a catch for only the second time since the middle of his rookie season in 1998. Ward left the game early with concussion-like symptoms after a blow to the head by Ray Lewis.


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