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Week 15 Recap: Steelers Get One Step Closer to AFC North Title

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The Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Cincinnati Bengals on Chris Boswell’s big day, and move one step closer towards AFC North title.

The Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, and move one step closer towards AFC North title. The Steelers played their last road game of the regular season, and finished with a 5-3 road record. With a 24-20 victory, the Steelers can now win the division on Christmas Day with a win over the Baltimore Ravens.

The game did not start off great for the Steelers. Andy Dalton was absolutely firing on all cylinders as he led the Bengals to an early 17-3 lead, while completing 10/14 passes and a touchdown run. But things went all downhill after Jeremy Hill scored a touchdown, and celebrated by grabbing a Terrible Towel off of the ground and attempted to rip it and throw it down in disgust. As many opposing players in the past have learned, messing with the Terrible Towel just leads to bad karma.

One guy who came to play was Chris Boswell. In his last three trips to Cincinnati, Boswell has gone an unbelievable 14/14 on field goals and 4/4 on extra points. With a perfect 6/6 performance on Sunday, Boswell kept the Steelers in the game by continuing to chip away at the lead one field goal at a time. With every field goal coming from longer than 40 yards, Ben Roethlisberger commented on Boswell‘s big day.

“Why not? Look what he did. Those weren’t just chip shots. Those were some bombs he hit into the wind. He also had a tackle. He deserves the game ball, and he got it.”

The Steelers offense had a relatively good day, scoring on seven out of nine drives. Ben Roethlisberger has not been his consistent self on the road this season, but his numbers were much better this week. Roethlisberger made some incredible throws in the fourth quarter, including a deep touchdown pass across the middle to Eli Rogers. On passes longer than 20 yards, Roethlisberger was 6/9 for 156 yards. Roethlisberger‘s favorite target over the last few years, Antonio Brown, set the NFL record for most receptions over a four year span with 622.

The Steelers defense had a true tale of two halves. The Bengals scored on every drive in the first half and gained 184 yards. The Steelers have not lost a single game all season when allowing 20 points or less, and have lost every game in which they allow 21 or more. So with the Bengals holding a 20-9 lead at half, the Steelers knew there was no margin for error. In the second half, the Steelers defense pitched a shutout, and allowed just 38 yards. Ryan Shazier commented on the team’s performance.

“We understand that though adversity, we can’t blink. We gonna try to fight until the last whistle, until the fat lady sings, until we’re on the busses or whatever time it is. At the end of the day, we gonna do what we gotta do to try to get a W. We all knew we weren’t play good in the first half, we had to come out in the second half, step up, and play better ball, and thats what we did.”

Ryan Shazier posted the highest defensive grade for the Steelers on Sunday with an 85.6 for Pro Football Focus. Right behind him were the rookies Artie Burns and Sean Davis, who graded at 78.4 and 75.2. Lawerence Timmons also had one of his best games of the season with three defensive stops and an interception.

The Steelers can thank Jeremy Hill for this win, as all he had to do was not step on the Terrible Towel. The Steelers have their biggest game of the season coming up on Christmas Day against the Baltimore Ravens. With a win, the Steelers can put a bow on the division title. If the Steelers can score as many times as they did on Sunday, they just may get exactly what they wanted for Christmas, a ticket to the playoffs.

Statistics and quotes referenced via Pro Football Focus and Pittsburgh Steelers media guide.