CINCINNATI — At the end of a night full of foibles, tricks and missed chances, the Steelers turned to their one constant.
That unyielding defense came through again.
James Harrison and Ryan Clark stripped the ball from Jordan Shipley near the 5-yard line on Cincinnati's final offensive play, preserving Monday night's 27-21 win over the Bengals.
The Steelers are again at the top, sharing the spot with Baltimore. The defending champion Bengals are in last place after their fifth straight loss.
"The defense held strong," said Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was 17-of-27 for 163 yards with a touchdown.
Pittsburgh seemed to be in control when receiver Antwaan Randle El threw a 39-yard touchdown off a trick play to open the fourth quarter, building a 27-7 lead. Pittsburgh also had points set up by a fumbled kickoff, a blocked punt and a missed field goal.
But in the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger threw an interception and Jeff Reed missed a 46-yard field goal. Terrell Owens' second touchdown catch and Cedric Benson's short TD brought the Bengals within six.
On their final drive Carson Palmer led the Bengals to the Pittsburgh 12-yard line. On fourth and 5, Palmer found Shipley open over the middle in first-down range, but the two Steelers converged on him.