Cleveland, OH - The Cleveland Browns gotta be happy about their long time rival, Super Bowl Champ Pittsburg Steelers, losing to a team that smacked them up and down the grid last weekend in the Battle of Ohio.
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Carson Palmer wasn't about to lose this one. Not against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team he says he hates - the team he spent eight exhausting months rehabilitating his mangled knee mostly for the chance to face.
Alternating between brilliant and awful, the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback threw two touchdown passes to T.J. Houshmandzadeh less than a minute apart midway through the fourth quarter following Steelers turnovers and the unbeaten Bengals rallied for a 28-20 victory Sunday over the Super Bowl champions.
Only three games into the season, the Bengals (3-0) own a two-game lead in the AFC North over the Steelers (1-2), who couldn't withstand a second mediocre game in seven days by their own rehabilitating quarterback.
Ben Roethlisberger, recovering from an offseason motorcycle accident and appendicitis attack, was an ineffective 18-of-39 for 209 yards and appears to be lacking strength on his downfield throws. The game ended when Roethlisberger was intercepted for the third time, this time by Kevin Kaesviharn, on a third-and-10 from the Bengals' 16 and Pittsburgh trying to drive for the tying score.
Palmer, whose focus has been on this game almost since the moment Kimo von Oelhoffen tore apart his knee by rolling atop it early in the Steelers' 31-17 playoff victory in January, had three fumbles and two interceptions, yet withstood them with four touchdown passes. He went 18-of-26 for 193 yards and now has seven TD throws in two games in Pittsburgh since December, both victories.
With the Bengals scoring 21 points off Steelers turnovers, Palmer twice hit Chris Henry for touchdowns in a first half largely dominated by Pittsburgh. Then, after the Steelers seemed in control even while leading only 17-14 in the fourth, Palmer took advantage of fumbles by punt returner Ricardo Colclough and running back Verron Haynes to hit Houshmandzadeh on TD throws of 9 and 30 yards only 54 seconds apart. Houshmandzadeh had missed two games with a heel injury.
The Colclough fumble at the Steelers 9, recovered by Tony Stewart, was the turning point. An inexperienced returner, Colclough tried to catch a tumbling punt that was aided by a strong wind with his hands over his head but never controlled it, and the Bengals scored on the next play. Rookie Willie Reid was supposed to be the Steelers' punt returner, but was deactivated for a third consecutive game - a move coach Bill Cowher may now regret.
The Steelers, coming off a 9-0 loss Monday to Jacksonville in which they ran for only 26 yards, couldn't have gotten off to a much better start. They drove 80 yards for the first of Willie Parker's two short touchdown runs, a 3-yarder less than six minutes into the game. Parker ran for 133 yards.
Palmer then had what might be the worst three-play sequence of his career - fumbling on consecutive plays, with the Bengals recovering each time before his pass was intercepted by Deshea Townsend at the Steelers' 46.
The Steelers, with a chance to quickly make it 14-0, drove to the Bengals' 6 before Madieu Williams picked off Roethlisberger's pass into the end zone - the first regular-season interception Roethlisberger has thrown inside an opponent's 20. He did so again in the final minute.
As quickly as the Steelers seized the momentum, they gave it away and Palmer led a 97-yard drive that took up much of the second quarter and was finished by the first of his two touchdown passes to Chris Henry, a 16-yarder on a fade pattern.