The scene Sunday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium was almost surreal.
Scott Tolzien — last seen by Minnesota Vikings fans in a putrid November 2013 tie with the Green Bay Packers — stepped in for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to run the clock with cursory handoffs. Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson cooled his heels on the sideline. And a Vikings fan base that filed into the stadium against minus-15-degree temperatures excused itself early, choosing a return to the frigid weather over the carnage on the field.
There was the taunting penalty by cornerback Adam Jones in the second quarter that gave the Steelers an extra 15 yards and led to a field goal.
There was the unnecessary roughness penalty on linebacker Vontaze Burfict on second-and-2 early in the third quarter. The Steelers, who had already gained 15 yards on the play, gained 15 more after Burfict hit Roethlisberger late. The Steelers kicked another field goal.
There was also a head-scratching interception thrown by Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton at the end of the fourth quarter. Center Russell Bodine appeared to get too far downfield and, as an ineligible receiver, ducked. Dalton threw the ball anyway and was picked off at midfield. That also led to a Steelers field goal.
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Playing Pittsburgh tends to bring out the best and the worst in the Bengals. Whether it was Jeremy Hill pretending to rip up a Terrible Towel, a celebration spike after a touchdown, or the usual pushing and shoving, the second matchup of the season had all of the usual makings of a classic between the two rivals.
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For one half, the Bengals were playing some of their best football. But for all the good things they did — like holding Le’Veon Bell to 93 rushing yards and Antonio Brown to 58 receiving — the rest of the game went much like the season has gone. In the end, the Bengals appeared to let their emotions get the best of them.