"A lot of guys are fighting for their jobs now," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "I am not going to quit. I am never going to quit. I am going to play my tail off until the season is over. I hope the other guys do the same."
It's been awhile since the Steelers played out a string with a month left in the season. Even during their 6-10 season in '99, they were 5-3 and in first place at the halfway point. Plus, not as much was expected of that team because they were 7-9 the previous season. Much was expected of this one that reached the AFC championship game with the best record in the conference in 2001 and was an overtime loss from reaching the title game again last season.
After being introduced before the game, the special teams were going along nicely until they were called on at the end. After the Steelers jumped ahead 20-17 with 1:05 left, Jeff Reed kicked off into the wind; the ball landed on the 21 and it was returned to the 48, setting up the Bengals' winning drive. Josh Miller averaged 55.3 yards on three punts.
QB Tommy Maddox completed 28 of 42 passes for 313 yards, one TD and one interception. He was sacked five times. Backup Charlie Batch was 1 of 2 for 22 yards and one sack and his incompletion was dropped at the goal line by Antwaan Randle El. On the ground, Jerome Bettis led them with 62 yards on 20 carries and one, one-yard touchdown run. In all, they ran 25 times for 85 yards, a 3.4-yard average with a long of 12. It's the ninth time in 12 games the Steelers have not hit 100 yards on the ground.
Jon Kitna was 18 of 32 for 271 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 115.5. He was sacked just once, by rookie safety Troy Polamalu. He was rarely under pressure, and he covered 52 yards on four plays in the final minute to throw the winning touchdown pass. The lack of pressure on Kitna and poor play from cornerback Chad Scott killed the passing defense. The Steelers run defense did a good job against a good running team, holding them to 113 yards on 25 carries and no touchdowns. Corey Dillon led the Bengals with 48 yards on 10 carries.
- An MRI on the left knee of QB Tommy Maddox showed no damage. Maddox left Sunday's game briefly with a hyperextended knee, only the second time all season he has missed any snaps.
- WR Hines Ward leads the AFC with 78 receptions and remains on pace to catch 104, which would be his third straight season with more than 100 receptions. With nine touchdowns, he's also on pace to match his team-record 12 TD catches of last season.
- WR Antwaan Randle El, whose production is off in all areas except on special teams from his rookie season, dropped a pass on the goal line Sunday that would have gone for a 10-yard touchdown. He has only one TD reception.
- OG Alan Faneca played nearly half of Sunday's game at left tackle again, moving there because of another injury to OT Marvel Smith. Keydrick Vincent came in at Faneca's left guard spot. Faneca started five games at left tackle in place of Smith before moving back to guard Nov. 23. Smith is suffering from stingers due to a pinched nerve and Faneca will likely start at left tackle next week.
- WR Plaxico Burress had his first 100-yard receiving game Sunday since the second game of the season. Burress caught eight passes for 112 yards, giving him 51 receptions for 737 yards. But he still has just one TD and his 14.5-yard average is down from his 17.0 of last season.
- CB Chad Scott will be out for the rest of the season with a torn flexor tendon in his hand. Dewayne Washington will take his place next week.
Quote to Note
"The milestones and the yards are very insignificant right now." -- RB Jerome Bettis, who topped 12,000 yards rushing on Sunday.