Run, run, and then run some more.
That was the Pittsburgh Steelers philosophy Monday night.
By game’s end, they racked up 326 yards of offense in a 27-3 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers notched their first victory of the season, a must-win game in an AFC North race that’s still wide open.
It’s unfair to use rushing yards as a gauge for how well the Steelers performed on the ground tonight. Randy Fichtner scrapped his old playbook, the tried and true concepts with Ben Roethlisberger. What the Steelers ran tonight resembled much more of a high school or college offense but when you’re 0-3 and desperate for a win, you’ll take yards and points any way possible.
Fichtner used the Wildcat, dotted by Jaylen Samuels. He used receivers on jet sweeps. There were shovel passes, read options, all the things the team didn’t – and wouldn’t – use with Big Ben. Samuels would finish the night with 83 total yards on 18 touches. Conner had 42 yards rushing and a game high 83 yards receiving.
The offense, though, started in disaster. Diontae Johnson fumble on the Steelers’ second offensive play from scrimmage, setting the Bengals up at Pittsburgh’s 15. But the defense held strong in a sudden change moment, holding the opposition to a 28 yard Randy Bullock field goal.
Once the Steelers’ offense got the lead, they didn’t look back. Early in the second quarter, James Conner and Jaylen Samuels touched the ball on all five snaps, capped off by a Conner 21 yard reception on an option shovel pass, one of the few plays Fichtner’s actually used before.
It was more of the same the remainder of the game.
Ditto with the defense.
Pittsburgh terrorized Andy Dalton to the tune of eight sacks. It was a sack party and everyone was invited. Six different Steelers got in on the action, beating up on a hapless Bengals’ offensive line that’s somehow gotten worse over time. Cincinnati was held to exactly 100 first half yards as the Steelers took a 10-3 lead at halftime.
During the past two weeks, they were leads that would be relinquished. Not Monday night.
The Steelers received the opening kickoff and marched downfield. Eight plays, 75 yards, with Samuels taking a direct snap from two yards out. Following a Bengals’ punt, Mason Rudolph only needed two plays for his first touchdown pass of the night, hitting a wide open Diontae Johnson – redeeming himself from that early fumble – from 43 yards out. That put the black and gold up 24-3.
Chris Boswell tacked on a 49 yard field goal in the fourth quarter for good measure.
The Steelers will continue with AFC North football next Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. Kickoff is set for 1 PM/EST.
NOTES: Boswell is now a perfect 7/7 on field goals this season…the Steelers’ defense has forced nine turnovers this season…they had 15 in all of 2018…Pittsburgh has allowed only 13 first half points since Week 2…Rudolph finished the game 24/28 for 229 yards and two touchdowns…TE Nick Vannett caught two passes for 28 yards in his Steelers’ debut