Photo via Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
The Pittsburgh Steelers, by all stretches of the mean, have had the number of the Cincinnati Bengals on speed-dial over the past half-decade.
Dating back to Dec. 13, 2015, the Bengals, in 11 matchups against their AFC North foe, went 0-11 and were outscored 274-163. In all 11 matchups, Cincinnati was held to 21 points or less. In eight of those 11 matchups, Pittsburgh scored at least 23 points. Then, of course, was the turnover discrepancy. In those 11 matchups, Cincinnati turned over the ball twice as much as Pittsburgh (18 turnovers compared to nine for the Steelers) for a 2:1 overall turnover ratio.
Once you wrapped everything together, you had a sub-par present that would give a lump of coal a good run for its money in regard to terrible gift ideas.
Luckily for Bengal fans, a gift presented itself on Monday Night Football, as Cincinnati snapped their 11-game skid against the Steel City and overcame their rivals at home in “the Jungle” for the first time since Sept. 16, 2013.
Never mind the fact that Cincinnati was without their franchise quarterback in Joe Burrow after the 24-year-old succumbed to a torn ACL and MCL against the Washington Football Team Nov. 22. Never mind the fact that their blue-chip running back in Joe Mixon (foot) has not seen a snap since Oct. 18 at Lucas Oil Stadium against the Indianapolis Colts. Never mind the fact that wide receiver Tyler Boyd went into concussion protocol with three minutes to go in the first quarter.
No matter the obstacle, Cincinnati delivered.
The game specifics should illustrate as such, and they most certainly do. Over the course of the game, Cincinnati, through constant pressure on a usually stout Pittsburgh offensive line, was able to hold Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to 170 passing yards, one touchdown, one interception and two fumbles (one fumble lost) for an overall quarterback rating of 62.4, his worst mark since the Miami (Ohio) product possessed a 60.5 quarterback rating in Week 1 of the 2018 season against the Cleveland Browns.
To make matters worse for Pittsburgh, the team, without running back James Connor (quad), was unable to explosively rely on the rushing attack to offset the disappearance of the passing game, despite Benny Snell Jr. rushing for 84 yards and one touchdown. As a result, Cincinnati was able to edge out the Steelers in time of possession (32:03 vs. 27:57) and in the rushing department, where the likes of running back Giovani Bernard and quarterback Ryan Finley combined for 130 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Then there were the turnovers. What was once a bane against Cincinnati in their 11 previous Pittsburgh matchups became a curse against the Steelers in this bout, as the team turned over the ball three times compared to zero for Cincinnati.
Collectively, Cincinnati’s effort resulted in the Steelers scoring less than 20 points (17) and producing less than 250 total yards of offense (244), in addition to allowing a quarterback rating of 65.0 or less (62.4). The last time the Bengals held Pittsburgh to less than 20 points, 250 total yards and a 65.0 quarterback rating came on Nov. 15, 2009, when quarterback Carson Palmer and the Bengals’ defense held Roethlisberger and the Steelers to 12 points, 226 total yards and a 51.5 quarterback rating.
Cincinnati fans knew all too well about the punishment the Steelers inflicted on their cherished Ohio team. If they needed a reminder, they could look back at the last 11 games.
No matter the obstacle, though, Cincinnati delivered in their most recent outing.
Their MNF performance, however ugly the game might have been and however meager the situation might have looked for Bengals, was a much-needed gift.