CINCINNATI The ball headed straight for Jordan Shipley. So did James Harrison.
Care to guess which one won?
The often-fined Harrison lowered his shoulder and helped knock the ball loose from Shipley near the 5-yard line on Cincinnatis final play, preserving a 27-21 victory over the Bengals on Monday night that left the AFC North with an old, familiar look.
The Steelers (6-2) are again at the top, sharing the spot with Baltimore. The defending-champion Bengals (2-6) are in last place alone after their fifth straight loss, coming up one completion short.
Credit that last rib-jolting hit legal all-around by the Steelers on-the-spot defenders.
The defense held strong, said Ben Roethlisberger, who was 17 of 27 for 163 yards with a touchdown and an interception that helped the Bengals rally at the end.
At the end of a night full of foibles, tricks and missed chances, the Steelers turned to their one constant to finish it off. That unyielding defense came through again.
This is how the Steelers play ball, defensive back Ike Taylor said. We might get a blowout here and there. But were always in tough close ballgames. As a defense we just want to close them out. Thats what we did tonight.
Pittsburgh seemed to be in control when Antwaan Randle El threw a 39-yard touchdown pass off a trick play to open the fourth quarter, building a 27-7 lead made possible by the Bengals many mistakes. Pittsburgh also had points set up by a fumbled kickoff, a blocked punt and a missed field goal.