- Associated Press - Sunday, October 21, 2012

CINCINNATI — The top two running backs were gone. So were two offensive linemen. Safety Troy Polamalu was sitting on the bench along with all those other injured Steelers.

So, what exactly did Pittsburgh have left? A determined defense. Some reserve running backs. And Ben Roethlisberger.

That’s enough, especially in Cincinnati.

Roethlisberger threw for a touchdown, and Pittsburgh’s defense clamped down on the Bengals’ Dalton-to-Green connection for a 24-17 victory Sunday night that got the Steelers back into the thick of the AFC North race.

For the Steelers (3-3), it was a significant win under tough conditions. Their first road victory of the season moved them into second place behind Baltimore (5-2), which lost to Houston 43-13 earlier Sunday.

“It puts us right there in the hunt,” safety Ryan Clark said.

A lot of players got them there on a tough night.

Third-year running back Jonathan Dwyer made his first career start and ran for a career-high 122 yards, including a 32-yard gain in the final minute that put it away. Shaun Suisham kicked field goals of 42, 47 and 42 yards. And the defense came up with a game-turning interception.

“It was a back-against-the-wall mentality and you’ve got to fight your way out,” said cornerback Ike Taylor, who helped limit Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green to one catch.

Cincinnati (3-4) wasted yet another chance to show it deserved to be considered up there with the division’s two most successful teams. The Bengals fell to 0-6 against the Steelers and Ravens over the last two seasons, a sign they are still an also-ran in their division.

They have lost three straight, falling into third place in the division.

“It’s going to be tough to sleep,” Bengals cornerback Leon Hall said. “At the end of the day, we’ve lost three in a row and we’re in a tough spot.”

This was their best chance yet to break through, especially after the Steelers dropped passes, fumbled and threw an end zone interception in a self-destructive first half. They couldn’t take full advantage against the team that always seems to win on their home field.

The Steelers improved to 12-2 at Paul Brown Stadium, where thousands of towel-waving fans make them feel at home. They have won their last five overall against their Ohio River rival and 10 of the last 12.

And once again, the Bengals could blame themselves.

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