Joe Burrow gave Steelers rookie Kenny Pickett a quarterbacking clinic Sunday, throwing four touchdown passes and 355 yards in a 37-30 Bengals win.
In Pittsburgh When Joe Burrow cut the Steelers for four touchdown passes and 355 yards in a 37-30 victory that handed the Bengals their sixth victory in the previous eight games, he offered Steelers rookie Kenny Pickett an NFL quarterbacking masterclass.
The Bengals also had strong performances from wide receiver Tee Higgins (nine receptions for a season-high 148 yards) and running back Samaje Perine (three touchdown receptions), who replaced Joe Mixon after the latter suffered a concussion. Trey Hendrickson had two sacks despite temporarily leaving the game in the first half due to a knee injury, and Cincinnati also benefited from a smothering defense in the second half that limited Pittsburgh to less than 70 yards after halftime until a scoring drive in garbage time.
With their first AFC North victory of the year, the Bengals improved to 6-4 and stay one game behind the Ravens for the top spot.
The Steelers’ last-second touchdown did reduce the margin to 37-30, and with 44 seconds remaining, it was down to who would successfully recover the on-side kick.
Wide receiver Tyler Boyd of the Bengals
With the game just under eight minutes old and the Bengals ahead by four, Boyd waited for the ideal opportunity to return to his hometown and made his first two receptions of the day for 42 yards. With 4:30 remaining, a 93-yard drive that took just over five minutes to complete resulted in Perine’s third touchdown grab of the day on a six-yard swing ball, giving them a 34-23 lead. Myles Jack of the Steelers fell while being covered, and Perine punished him.
Drue Chrisman of the Bengals, who was playing in his first NFL game, punted 57 yards early in the third quarter when the Steelers were stuck on their nine. With 7:02 remaining in the third quarter, the Bengals led 24-20 after Burrow connected with tight end Hayden Hurst for a huge seven-yard gain in the middle of the field on third-and-five. He then leaned back and sifted a 33-yard bomb to Higgins inside the Steelers’ 10-yard line before connecting with wide receiver Trenton Irwin in the back of the end zone for his first NFL touchdown.
With four three-and-outs to open the second half, the Bengals defense overcame their first-half struggles, and their last one was their most remarkable when Pittsburgh intercepted Burrow for the second time that day on yet another outstanding play by Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt. In a near-exact replica of his first-round selection of Burrow, Watt reached up and snatched it at the Bengals’ 21 despite being blocked by right tackle La’el Collins.
(It was Pittsburgh’s sixth selection of the year and Burrow’s ninth overall.)
However, the Bengals held the lead at 24-23 by only allowing a field goal.
Higgins and Perine worked tirelessly for 82 scrimmage yards and those three touchdown catches, which set a Bengals record for a running back in a game, as the Bengals roared to a 27-23 lead early in the fourth quarter despite Mixon’s absence due to a concussion (he had seven carries for 20 yards when he left). With 31 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Higgins’ run-and-catch 15-yard pass on a crossing pattern set up Evan McPherson’s 54-yard bomb, giving them a 27-23 lead.
With 6:38 remaining in the first half, the Bengals had everything going their way and were up 17-10. Burrow was blazing it once again, this time with two touchdown throws to Perine.
But on the next drive, the Bengals’ defense allowed the Steelers to escape punishment. Tre Flowers, a cornerback, was called for holding a tight end on a successful third down, and Mike Hilton, a slot cornerback, was called for interfering with a rookie wide receiver named George Pickens.
With an average of 13 points a game under Pickett and no touchdowns longer than eight yards all season, the Steelers offense entered the game ranked 26th in the NFL on third down.
The Steelers converted five of seven third downs in the first half, including Pickett’s tying touchdown for 17-17 with 1:47 left in the half on a 24-yard pass to Pickens against the blitz on third-and-nine, which caused everything to change. The defensive backs seemed to be confused at the line of scrimmage since Pickens was positioned in a bunch formation and was essentially unprotected.
The Bengals tried to score on Burrow’s 155 passer rating. With 35 seconds left, linebacker Robert Spilane deflected a throw, and cornerback Levi Wallace picked it off at the Steelers’ 34.
Burrow’s near-perfect passer rating of 155 had the Bengals trying to score. Second-and-10 from the Steelers 47 with 35 seconds remaining, but linebacker Robert Spilane deflected a throw, and cornerback Levi Wallace picked it off at the Steelers 34.
Four-for-four with two huge passes to Freiermuth, including a 27-yarder on which Cam Taylor-Britt and other Bengals DBs missed tackles. That set up Matthew Wright’s 20-17 halftime field goal.
Burrow’s 10,000th passing yard came in the first half, giving the Bengals a 10-3 lead on a 29-yard touchdown throw to Perine. Stanley Morgan, Trenton Irwin, and Cordell Volson all had massive blocks after going with six linemen.
On a 7-for-7 shotgun drive, Higgins caught four passes for 55 yards.His first target with 11 minutes remaining in the second quarter was the longest. On third-and-4, Burrow sent Higgins against Terrell Edmunds for 24 yards.
Burrow didn’t get sacked in the first half after the Steelers sacked him seven times in the opener. Collins and left tackle Jonah Williams stepped up to protect him. His 11-yard swing ball to Perine on the right sideline scored the touchdown.
On the Bengals’ drive when Hendrickson injured his knee, the Steelers tied the score at 10. Pickett went left on third-and-3, and when end Sam Hubbard crashed on the zone read, he raced wide open for 14 yards. Pickett went after Hendrickson’s left edge, where Cam Sample was playing, and the stagnant Steelers rushing game woke up. Running back Najee Harris scored the Steelers’ longest touchdown of the season by hurdling free safety Jessie Bates III.
Chrisman’s first punt sailed 62 yards in the game’s initial seconds, and wide receiver Steven Sims muffed it and had to run it back to his five. On the subsequent three-and-out (highlighted by linebacker Germaine Pratt stoning running back Najee Harris), the Bengals grabbed the ball at their own 43, and Hayden Hurst scorched linebacker Myles Jack on a 21-yard slant. The first touchdown was Evan McPherson’s 45-yard field goal.
The Bengals’ defense held Pickett to 25-of-42, 265-yard throwing.