Third-string Steelers RB Jonathan Dwyer rushed for 122 yards against the Bengals defense in Pittsburgh's 24-17 win at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday night. (US Presswire)

Through the first quarter and a half, the Steelers were on a crash course with failure yet again. Ben Roethlisberger forced an interception into triple coverage in the end zone. He contorted out of the Tuck Rule position and into a fumble within a few feet of his own goal line. The Steelers erased return yards with still more penalties, befitting the NFL’s third-most penalized team. And they trailed host Cincinnati by 14-3.

Then they turned into the Steelers of old, and methodically ran control-the-clock offense and used solid defense to stymie the Bengals in Cincinnati for the 13th time in the past 15 games there, this time by 24-17 Sunday night in Paul Brown Stadium.

These still aren’t the Steelers of yore, but at least they displayed their traditional moxie in winning for the first time on the road since New Year’s Day in Cleveland -- with four consecutive losses in between (Denver, Denver, Oakland and Tennessee). Maybe it’s an Ohio thing. Nevertheless, they did it with one third-string tailback, with two backup linemen (including a rookie in his debut start), with seven penalties on the special teams alone, with an 11-point deficit early on the road and no Troy Polamalu.

Oh, and in more accustomed Steelers fashion, they held onto a fourth-quarter lead after blowing three earlier this season.

Offense: B

Jonathan Dwyer, replacing an injured Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) and Isaac Redman (ankle), rushed for a career-high 122 yards and the most yards by a Steelers back in a season full of games, dating to Mendenhall’s 142 some 16 games ago against Jacksonville. They gained 431 yards, two shy of their season best against the Jets, they controlled the clock for a season-high 37:30 and after an opening pair of field goals scored touchdowns (and a two-point conversion) to wrest control. True, Roethlisberger made those giveaways on back-to-back possessions, but coolly directed a patchwork Pittsburgh back into the game. The offensive line played its best game to date, and this without Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey and offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert --  Doug Legursky and rookie Mike Adams replaced those first- and second-round draft picks sidelined by leg injuries. Even though there was a fade pattern to the tight end (isn’t it time to include Heath Miller in the Pro Bowl conversation?) and a wide receiver flea-flicker, there were four dropped passes that plagued the Steelers: one by first-year tailback Baron Batch on that gadget pass by receiver Antonio Brown, and three ugly muffs by struggling star receiver Mike Wallace. And that total doesn’t take into account that tipped pass in the end zone that still hit Wallace in the midsection and fell incomplete. Previous game’s grade: F

Defense: A-

Make no mistake, this wasn’t the Ken Anderson-Isaac Curtis or Boomer Esiason-Cris Collinsworth Bengals whom the Steelers dominated. The Steelers, rather, played more of a steady defense the final 2½ quarters Sunday -- allowing nary a scoring drive, just 68 yards of offense and only four first downs. Indeed, they got lucky on an interception that slipped from quarterback Andy Dalton’s hand and caromed off a Bengals offensive linemen into LaMarr Woodley’s hands, but that was more like the Steelers of yesterday instead of the modern Steelers who had only two interceptions in the five games before Sunday. In fact, after an impressive, opening 80-yard drive by the Bengals, the Steelers permitted just 105 yards of offense -- equally as impressive. They also got their first pass tipped by a defensive lineman in 180-some attempts. Finally, beleaguered cornerback Ike Taylor seemed to rediscover a measure of confidence and played A.J. Green fairly well, though he did receive help from Keenan Lewis in tipping away what appeared to be a sure touchdown pass. Previous game’s grade: F

Special teams: F

Five penalties were called against the Steelers special teams -- contrast that to one against the rest of the team. Not only did those flags (one was declined) set back the visitors 40 yards, it erased 85 yards in Brown and Chris Rainey returns ... on a night when they were credited with 132 total. You wonder if coach Mike Tomlin will call on the carpet special teams co-coach Mike Tomlin, or at least air out his special teamers. Shaun Suisham went 3 for 3 and rookie Drew Butler punted twice for a 44.5-yard average. Even Roethlisberger, showing that left-footed pooch for a rare opportunity, left Cincinnati deep in its end. Previous game’s grade: D

Coaching: C

The Steelers flashed enough resolve to overcome two turnovers, too many special-teams penalties and a 14-3 deficit midway through the second quarter. This is a team, though, that hasn’t lost back-to-back games in a span of 42 games. Offensive line coach Sean Kugler deserves kudos for his patchwork line opening holes and providing protection (three sacks and few hurries in some 40 pass plays). New offensive coordinator Todd Haley relied on the run to close the game, sprinkled in a few gadgets and spread the wealth when their riches were a bit strained -- no Pro Bowl Pouncey, no Mendenhall, no Redman, no sure hands on what could’ve been four important pass plays. With Baltimore sustaining blows and the Bengals reeling after their third consecutive loss not to mention a 1-3 AFC North record, the Steelers look to be in a position to strike at 3-3 overall and 1-0 divisonally. They look to be in position for now, anyway. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle RG3 and Washington next Sunday. Previous game’s grade: D

Follow Steelers reporter Chuck Finder on Twitter @CBSSteelers and @cfinder.