No Ryan Finley gimmicks. No JuJu Smith-Schuster motivation. Just an overall better performance from the team that had not won in this setting since 2015.
The Steelers were banged up entering this game and suffered even more injuries as the afternoon wore on, and the Bengals took advantage with another dominant defensive showing.
Here are the game’s winners and losers for the now 2-1 Bengals
Ja’Marr Chase: 14 of the Bengals’ 24 points were courtesy of Chase, who in case you forgot, was proclaimed to be a bust only a month ago. Chase led the Bengals in receiving with four receptions, 65 yards, and two touchdowns. When Joe Burrow targeted his former LSU running mate, the offense averaged 1.51 Expected Points Added per play. A fantastic performance from Uno, who didn’t have Tee Higgins to draw attention away from him.
Sam Hubbard: After going sack-less in the first two games, Hubbard found success working against two different right tackles for Pittsburgh. His first pressure on Ben Roethlisberger came after blitzing from the MIKE linebacker spot, and it forced an errant throw that resulted in an interception for Logan Wilson. He finished with a sack, two quarterback hits, and four solo tackles.
Logan Wilson: Every week, Wilson strays further away from the stigma that has followed Bengals linebackers for years. He notched an impressive one-handed interception before getting his hands on another Roethlisberger pass in the third quarter. He added on 14 combined tackles as well.
Joe Burrow: It took over a year, but Burrow finally won a game on the road. He started a bit shaky, overthrowing Boyd for his fourth interception of the season in the first quarter, but he finished incredibly strong as he was kept clean for the entire afternoon. Burrow finished with 172 yards and three touchdowns on 14-18 passing.
Offensive line: We gotta give it up to the entire unit here. A week after being bashed for allowing Burrow to take a multitude of hits vs. the Bears, Frank Pollack’s starting five, including a rookie Jackson Carman at right guard, prevented the Steelers from sacking Burrow the entire game. It was the first time in 75 games the Steelers didn’t get to the opposing quarterback. T.J. Watt being out was even bigger than we imagined it would be.
Tyler Boyd: Finally, in his fourth game in Heinz Field as a Bengal, Boyd found the end zone against the Steelers. On the offense’s third drive, Boyd hauled in two catches and a spectacular touchdown that featured a broken tackle and a dive into the end zone, his first score in the stadium since his days at Pitt. He finished with four receptions for 36 yards and the aforementioned touchdown.
Joe Mixon: While he didn’t get to 20 carries like he did the first two weeks, Mixon popped off for more explosive runs in his third outing this season. His 90 yards on 18 carries provided solid balance for the Bengals’ offense, as he worked in conjunction with his offensive line.
Cam Sample: It was a great day for Bengals rookies, including one of the club’s fourth-round picks. Sample recorded his first career sack thanks to pressure up the middle from D.J. Reader.
Lou Anarumo: In the battle of Anarumo vs. Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada, Anarumo won by a landslide. Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator continues to get the most out of his unit, even when he’s down multiple cornerbacks. The Bengals managed to pressure Roethlisberger all game and limit big plays from his weapons.
Trey Hopkins: It’s been an up-and-down start to the season for Hopkins. He was flagged with multiple holding penalties, and had issues against Cameron Heyward in pass protection.
Eli Apple: After a decent first half, Apple’s shortcomings started to pop back up in coverage. He dropped an interception next to the Steelers’ goal-line and flagged for interference later in the second half. Thankfully, it looks like Trae Waynes could return next week.
Darius Phillips: Opposite of Apple, Phillips had to come in for Chidobe Awuzie, who left the game with a groin injury. Phillips unfortunately didn’t play much better than Apple, as Roethlisberger started to take advantage of the Bengals’ depleted secondary late in the contest.