The Cincinnati Bengals beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh for the first time since 2015. This was Zac Taylor’s first win at Heinz Field, and for the second time this season, he has a winning record.
The Steelers were beat up, missing T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. As a result, their pass rush had trouble getting to Joe Burrow and couldn’t take advantage of Jackson Carman in his first career start, or the fact that Tee Higgins was out for Cincinnati. The Steelers snapped an NFL-long 75-game streak of recording at least one sack.
Things didn’t look good for them on offense, either. While Ben Roethlisberger passed for over 300 yards, most of that yardage came after the catch. Roethlisberger only completed a handful of passes that went more than five yards through the air.
The Bengals and Steelers traded possessions until Sam Hubbard hit Roethlisberger and forced an interception. Logan Wilson came down with the ball for his second pick of the season, and the Bengals had the ball in Steelers’ territory for the first time.
Hubbard hits Roethlisberger's arm, Logan Wilson picks it off pic.twitter.com/rWkEihl2Z1— Dadio Makdook (@dadiodefacto) September 26, 2021
The games’ first touchdown came from the Western Pennsylvania native Tyler Boyd. He caught the ball and gained a first down, but broke a Melvin Ingram tackle and ran the rest of the way for a 17-yard touchdown. Evan McPherson’s extra point was good, and the Bengals had a 7-0 lead with 2:54 left in the first quarter.
Touchdown.— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) September 26, 2021
This was all Tyler Boyd, getting separation (what I used to call THE Housh route) and bouncing away from defenders for the touchdown.#Bengals 7#Steelers Loooooosers pic.twitter.com/NvetOOY6o9
For the first few possessions, the Steelers had 14 yards of total offense, but lost 26 yards due to penalties. Their only first down of the first quarter came off a pass interference call on Chidobe Awuzie, which was an iffy call since the ball landed five yards out of bounds on that play.
First quarter for the Steelers: 13 plays, 16 yards.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) September 26, 2021
Average yards per play in the first quarter:— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) September 26, 2021
CIN -- 6.1
PIT -- 1.2
In the middle of the second quarter, the Steelers finally started gaining chunks of yards. Najee Harris had several runs of 10+ yards, and Steelers receivers consistently extended passes for huge gains. The Steelers got all the way down to the four-yard line where Roethlisberger shoveled the ball to Pat Freiermuth for a quick touchdown. Chris Boswell got the extra point, and with 1:04 remaining in the half, the Steelers tied the game at seven points apiece.
The Bengals got the ball back and wanted to score before the half. A 19-yard pass to Mike Thomas set the Bengals up in Steelers’ territory. Burrow then did what he does best and threw a touchdown lob to Ja’Marr Chase. With the 34-yard score, Chase now had a touchdown pass in three straight games.
Geaux Tigers… er Bengals #WhoDey pic.twitter.com/in8sqn44de— The Draft Network (@TheDraftNetwork) September 26, 2021
Chase now the 9th player in NFL history to catch at TD pass in each of his first three games in the league.— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonATH) September 26, 2021
With the extra point, the Bengals had a 14-7 lead going into the locker room.
Overall, the Steelers’ offense didn’t look particularly dangerous. Roethlisberger didn’t complete any passes beyond five yards in the air, and most of the Steelers’ passing yards came on the ground. The Bengals got a few coverage sacks, and until the last drive, kept the rushing to a minimum.
The Bengals’ offense looked the same as usual; not doing anything too funky until the last drive of the half. The conservative nature of the offense might have contributed to the defense’s fatigue towards the end of the half.
On the first drive of the second half, Mixon had two runs of 11 yards to start. Penalties got the Bengals off schedule, so the Bengals called on McPherson for a 43-yard field goal. McPherson gave the kick about twice the leg he needed, and the kick was good. The Bengals had points unanswered with a 17-7 lead, and kept the Steelers’ offense on the sideline for six minutes and 13 seconds.
On the next drive, the Steelers were facing a three-and-out, but Roethlisberger threw it right into Wilson’s arms. This was both Roethlisberger’s and Wilson’s second pick of the game, and Wilson’s third in two weeks. The Bengals got the ball at the Steelers’ 19-yard line.
The Bengals had a first-and-goal, and Burrow had enough protection to let Chase get free in the end zone. Burrow hit a Chase for the receivers’ second touchdown of the game and his fourth of the season. With that score, the Bengals had touchdowns off both of the Steelers’ interceptions. The extra point was good, and the Bengals were up 24-7 with 6:18 remaining in the third quarter.
Roethlisberger started throwing the ball further down the field and got the Steelers in a rhythm. He still threw it short for the most part, but did complete a few passes that were around ten yards through the air for the first time all game. A pass interference call on Eli Apple helped get the Steelers down to the red zone, where Boswell made a 26-yard field goal. With 8:09 left in the game, the Bengals still led 24-10.
The Steelers made a couple of pushes to cut into the deficit, but appeared to have given up on their final drive. Harris made an ill-advised cut inside to keep the clock going, and had two drops to keep the Steelers from moving the chains.
The Bengals improve to 2-1 after their third win of the season. This was Taylor’s first win in Pittsburgh, and the Bengals’ first back-to-back win against the Steelers since 2013.
After the win, the Bengals are tied with the Browns for first place in the AFC North, as the 1-2 Steelers drop to last.