PITTSBURGH – The Cincinnati Bengals are tied for first place in the AFC North.
Yes, that is correct.
It’s not a misprint or fake news.
The Bengals (2-1) went into Heinz Field and put an old-fashion thumping on the Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2) in front of 58,076 fans on Sunday.
It was Cincinnati’s first win in the Steel City since 2015.
Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow claimed his first NFL road win by throwing three touchdown passes en route to the 24-10 win over the Steelers.
Pittsburgh’s offense was anemic from the beginning and struggled to post nine yards passing and 13 yards rushing in the first quarter.
On the other end, Cincinnati had rhythm and control.
When the game was over, Burrow was 14-of-18 for 172 yards and three touchdown passes and posted a 122.9 rating.
Two of the scoring throws were to Ja’Marr Chase.
The first came with 27 seconds left before the half when the No. 5 overall pick from Louisiana State made a finger-tip snag off a 34-yard lofted toss from Burrow.
“That’s why you draft a guy like that,” Burrow said. “He makes those kinds of plays.”
That score answered Pittsburgh’s only touchdown of the game when Ben Roethlisberger capped off a 15-play, 86-yard drive that ate up 8:32 of the second-quarter clock to tie the game 7-7.
It was the Steelers’ only impressive drive of the contest that mattered.
“It was just a perfect throw from Joe,” Chase said about the touchdown that gave Cincinnati a 14-7 lead going into the break. “He led me out forward, not behind me or a jump ball, but where I could run under it.”
Although Roethlisberger — who is in his 18th year under center for Pittsburgh and has two Super Bowl rings — finished the game with 318 yards in the air with one touchdown, he was also picked off two times and had a rating of 70.9.
Both interceptions turned into 14 points for the Bengals.
“It has to start with me,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m not going to point the finger at anyone else. I’m going to point the thumb at myself and try to get it figured out. I’m a little stumped by it. I’m frustrated. I’m hurt. I hate losing. I’m never going to quit or give up.”
Coach Mike Tomlin was also direct when he spoke about the loss.
“Let’s not sugarcoat it, we played poorly today,” he said. “We didn’t deserve to win and that not taking anything away from the Bengals. I’m talking about our group and the things we aspire and how we expect to play.”
Chase, who finished the game with 65 yards receiving and two touchdowns, became the first rookie in Bengals’ history to catch a TD in each of his first three career games.
Another bright spot for the Bengals is second-yard linebacker Logan Wilson.
The 6-2, 241-pounder from Wyoming picked off Roethlisberger twice, and now has three interceptions on the year.
The first pick resulted in a touchdown when Burrow connected with Tyler Boyd six plays later, on a 7-yard pass with 3:34 left in the first quarter.
Wilson’s second theft happened in the third quarter on a third down, and stopped a potential scoring drive from Pittsburgh.
Three plays later, Burrow connected with Chase on a 9-yard TD strike in the back of the end zone with 6:25 to go in the period.
“I know his value to this team,” Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said about Wilson. “The team knows his value. He quietly just steps up and just makes tremendous play after tremendous play and I couldn’t say if he gets the respect he deserves nationally, but he’s going to be a great player in this league for a long time and we’re really glad to have him.”
Overall, the Bengals simply outplayed Pittsburgh in all phases of the game.
Although the Steelers had more total offensive yards, 342 to 268, they did not convert on crucial downs and did not score a touchdown after the second quarter.
Pittsburgh also led in the time of possession with 35:22, compared to Cincinnati’s 24:38.
That fact should worry Steeler Nation in the sense that the team could barely score 10 points when it dominated the ball.
Sunday’s win was more than a victory for the Bengals.
It was the first double-digit win over Pittsburgh since 1995 when they won 27-9.
And Cincinnati is tied for first place with Baltimore while the Steelers are last.
It appears the two teams have swapped roles.
For Sunday’s game, the symbol of the Steelers, the legendary “terrible towels,” were not fluttering all over the stadium much after the second quarter.
The only thing more “terrible” than the yellow towels was the Pittsburgh offensive production.
Cincinnati has a quick turnaround and will host Jacksonville on Thursday night, while the Steelers travel to Lambeau Field to take on Green Bay on Sunday.
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Del Duduit covers the Bengals for the Portsmouth Daily Times.