PITTSBURGH — The Steelers got on the board for the 2019 season on Monday, and they did so in impressive fashion, dominating AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals, 27-3 at Heinz Field.
Quarterback Mason Rudolph finally looked the part of the top prospect he was deemed to be in the 2018 NFL Draft, passing for two touchdowns and completing 24 of 28 passes for 229 yards while leading the team to his first career victory.
Rudolph benefitted from a changed-up Pittsburgh offensive game plan that saw the Steelers lean on jet sweeps, pop passes and the Wildcat formation to spread out the Cincinnati defense.
In the second quarter, Rudolph found running back James Conner on a sprint-out pass for a 21-yard that erased the Bengals’ early 3-0 lead.
On the opening drive of the third quarter, the Steelers used the legs of Conner and Jaylen Samuels — and the Wildcat — to go 80 yards in eight plays, with Samuels using a Wildcat keeper to the right side from 2 yards out to make the Pittsburgh lead 17-3.
Both Steelers backs were prominent in the offensive game plan. Samuels had three passes for 31 yards, 10 carries for 26 yards and eight catches for 57 yards. Conner finished with 10 carries for 42 yards and eight catches for 83 yards.
The Steelers defense was dominant throughout, sacking Andy Dalton eight times, forcing him to fumble once and intercepting him once. On the possession following Samuels’ score, Dalton was sacked by Cameron Heyward for an 11-yard loss and threw incomplete twice.
A short punt gave the Steelers prime field position, and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner took advantage. After running mostly short passing routes into the flats combined with the ground game all day, he finally took a deep shot and the Steelers were rewarded when Rudolph found a wide open Diontae Johnson for a 43-yard score to put the game out of reach.
The 1-3 Steelers moved to one game back in the AFC North, while the Bengals fell to 0-4. Cleveland and Baltimore are tied for first place at 2-2. The Steelers host the Ravens next Sunday, Oct. 6 at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field.