Well, that was a pleasant surprise.
Most who looked at this game before kickoff saw a tough battle between two rivals who despise each other. Instead, the Cincinnati Bengals completely controlled the game from start to finish as a major divisional power shift occurred on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
Here are the best from the Bengals’ Week 12 beatdown over the Steelers. We probably missed some deserving folks, as nearly every single player and coach could have been given a verbal pat-on-the-back here.
For the second consecutive week, Apple nabbed an interception. It appeared to be a miscommunication between Ben Roethlisberger and his receiver and Apple took advantage, taking the pick down to the Steelers’ five-yard line. It led to a big, early field goal.
The game started off on a great note for the Bengals, using Mixon to perfection on the opening touchdown drive. He ran extremely hard all game, putting up over 100 rushing yards and a touchdown in the first half alone.
Mixon also had a huge play in the third quarter that would otherwise go unnoticed as lost yardage on a reception. Burrow floated a screen pass his way and Alex Highsmith bobbled it, only to see No. 28 snag it away for Cincinnati to retain possession and milk more clock. Oh, and he converted a huge 4th-and-1 a few plays later.
Quinton Spain and his starting interior linemates:
Big No. 67 let up a sack against Cam Heyward, but he was a monster in the run game. He was a critical facet in Mixon’s huge day, while both Trey Hopkins and Hakeem Adeniji did solid work as well.
Hopkins left the game early, but Spain and Adeniji continued to pave paths for Mixon.
After a sluggish start to the year, we finally saw the No. 85 that was lighting up training camp. In the second quarter alone, he made a nice grab across the middle on a pass that was behind him and then made a beautiful catch for a touchdown.
It was vintage Higgins, who leaped over a defender to come down with the grab. Higgins also had a huge reception in the second quarter on a third-and-12. He also nearly had his second touchdown grab of the day, but was stopped just short on the third-down conversion, en route to a six-catch, 114-yard day.
The Bengals faced a precarious situation when they were driving to extend the lead before halftime and a poor offensive pass interference penalty set off a series of events wherein Burrow threw an interception. It gave Pittsburgh the ball with three timeouts and 37 seconds on the clock.
On Roethlisberger’s first drop-back of the drive, he tried a short pass. Hilton read it beautifully and took it to the house for a gigantic pick-six. He also added two nice tackles that limited yardage.
Despite throwing an interception late in the second quarter, Burrow was pinpoint accurate throughout the first half. He only missed four passes in the first couple of quarters and hit a number of different receivers on the afternoon to keep Pittsburgh’s defense on its heels.
Burrow also had a gutsy run for a touchdown to cap the impressive opening drive. He left the game early, but had a 96.2 rating on the afternoon, along with a passing and rushing touchdown.
What a weapon this rookie has become. After nailing three 50-plus-yard field goal attempts in the desert, he nailed another one late in the third quarter to extend the Bengals’ big lead. He also kicked a clutch one early in the game after the Apple interception, while adding four extra points.
In many ways, this was a must-win for Taylor’s Bengals. We knew the Steelers were going to play a bit angry from Tyler Boyd’s comments after the first matchup and Taylor had his team ready after a big road win against Las Vegas.
Cincinnati absolutely dominated every facet of this game and, really, almost every second of the contest. If there were questions about the Bengals’ viability going forward, they gave a big response this week.
Though the Steelers had a couple of sacks against the Bengals, Pollack’s unit largely had their way with the stout Steelers defense. Mixon had a career day on the ground, while nice pockets were regularly seen for Burrow to navigate.
Cincinnati touted the re-addition of Pollack as a cure-all for the offensive line issues and while we were skeptical, it’s largely been true. Using a carousel of players at right guard and Isaiah Prince in varying capacities hasn’t had much of a negative effect, as his group is getting it done.
Oh, and the run game coordinator oversaw a 38-carry, 198-yard, three touchdown ground game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not a bad day’s work, coach.
All of a sudden, Anarumo’s group has come out of the bye week on fire. The previous two contests against the Jets and Browns exploited some issues, respectively, but they have taken it to a couple of quality teams in the Raiders and the Steelers. Through three quarters, the Bengals’ defensive starters allowed as many points (three) as turnovers they forced.
While Taylor calls the plays, we have to give Callahan credit as well. He has a hand in the scheme and Sunday’s plan was perfection. His unit came out pounding the Steelers’ defense with Mixon, Keith Butler had few answers for what Callahan and Taylor were showing.
Riley Reiff and Jonah Williams:
Though Reiff left the game early, both guys played well on Sunday. We heard all week how having Highsmith and Watt was going to be the difference in the rematch. Not so much, as the two combined for zero sacks and just seven total tackles.
Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson:
This duo is a wrecking crew this year. Once again, both guys got after the quarterback and were directly responsible for at least two of Big Ben’s turnovers.
Pressure by Hendrickson forced Roethlisberger to uncork the interception to Apple, while big. 91 also had a strip-sack that was recovered by Hubbard. Not to be outdone by his counterpart, Hubbard had a sack of his own to go with his fumble recovery.
The should-be Hall of Fame tackle came back to “The Jungle” as this week’s “Ruler of the Jungle”. Anderson had his fair share of heartbreak with the Bengals—particularly at the hands of the Steelers.
Needless to say, big No. 71 was pleased with the entire day:
How many time have the Who Dey faithful been subjected to beatdowns at the hands of the Steelers? Maybe not by 31 points, but there have been numerous occasions wherein Cincinnati was physically dominated by the Steelers.
Not so much lately, as the Bengals have won the last three against Pittsburgh—a feat they hadn’t achieved in 31 years. The average margin of victory by the Bengals in those three games? That would be 18.3 points.