Joe Burrow gave Steelers rookie Kenny Pickett an NFL quarterbacking clinic Sunday when he sliced the Steelers for four touchdown passes and 355 yards in a 37-30 victory that gave the Bengals their sixth win in the last eight games.
“A lot of adversity. AFC North game. Bad weather, cold, windy,” said Burrow, who had said last week this would be one his coldest games and it was as the temp dipped below freezing. “We fought through. We found a way to win.”
The cameras caught him saying, “We’re the big dogs,” on the field and while he didn’t elaborate. Burrow did allow the Bengals are a club to be reckoned with as December beckons.
“I think we’re playing as good as anybody,” Burrow said. “We’re hitting our stride offensively. We still left some points out there. There’s always room to improve, obviously. But the last couple of weeks, apart from that Monday night game, we’ve been pretty lights out.”
With Joe Mixon coming off a five-touchdown game in Cincinnati’s last outing, the Steelers were obviously concerned about the Bengals’ star running back.
As it turns out, they should have been more concerned with his backup, Samaje Perine.
Perine, the Bengals’ third-down back, saw more playing time Sunday against the Steelers at Acrisure Stadium after Mixon was knocked out of the game with a concussion. And he took full advantage, scoring three receiving touchdowns as the Bengals knocked off the Steelers.
Two-plus months removed from an upset home loss to the Steelers in Week 1 in which he was pummeled relentlessly, Burrow responded by going 24 of 39 for 355 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions.
“He’s always comfortable,” Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said. “The whole world could be falling down around him (and it doesn’t faze him) … he’s a special player.”
One who is hardly doing it alone. The Bengals (6-4) have won four of five following a 2-3 start, topping 30 points in all four wins.
The last two of those came despite Chase sitting out while recovering from a knee injury.
“It just shows what we’ve got,” said Cincinnati receiver Tee Higgins, who caught nine passes for 148 yards. “We’ve got firepower.”
The Bengals piled up 408 yards of total offense and put together touchdown drives of 79, 92 and 93 yards to beat the Steelers (3-7) for the fourth time in five meetings.
“I think we’re playing as good as anybody,” said Burrow, who passed 10,000 career yards passing in 36 games, tying him with Hall of Famer Kurt Warner for the third-fastest player in league history to reach that plateau. “We’re hitting our stride offensively.”
Mixon, coming off a five-touchdown performance in a blowout win over Carolina two weeks ago, managed just 20 yards rushing before entering the NFL’s concussion protocol. No matter. Perine stepped in and turned flips from Burrow into touchdowns of 29, 11 and 6 yards, the final one with Steelers defensive back Levi Wallace on Perine’s back that gave the Bengals a 34-23 lead with 4:30 to go.
“I’m the checkdown (guy) and fortunate to have some space when (Burrow) checks down to make something happen,” Perine said. “Other than that, I’m just the next guy up.”
Pittsburgh (3-7) saw its chance of repeating its Week 1 upset it pulled off in Cincinnati in September vanish in the second half as a 20-17 lead slipped away. Rookie Kenny Pickett passed for 265 yards and a touchdown and Najee Harris ran for 90 yards and two scores, but the NFL’s second-lowest scoring offense sputtered after halftime.
“Our defense did a great job to give us a chance to win the game and we didn’t come through in the second half,” Pickett said. “That’s on us. we have to get it fixed and have two strong halves in order to beat a team like that.”
The Steelers managed just 52 total yards on their first six drives of the second half and turned a pair of short fields into only three points. That was all the space Burrow needed to likely end any slim outside chance Pittsburgh had in being a factor in the AFC North race down the stretch.
“It’s not good,” Harris said. “But we just have to be here and stack bricks. … It was a tough one. We really wanted this one.”
The Steelers failed to disrupt Burrow as effectively as they did in Week 1, when they sacked him seven times and forced five Bengals turnovers. Pittsburgh took down Burrow just twice, though linebacker T.J. Watt provided another highlight-reel play when he simultaneously fought off a block from Bengals tackle La’el Collins and snatched Burrow’s pass in mid-air for his sixth career interception and second this season against Burrow.
“I would love to say that there’s something I can do about that, but there’s nothing I can do about that,” Burrow said.
Steelers: WR Miles Boykin (oblique) and backup RB Jaylen Warren (hamstring) left in the first half. C Mason Cole (foot) did not start the second half and was replaced by J.C. Hassenauer.
Bengals: Travel to AFC South-leading Tennessee (7-3) next Sunday.
Steelers: Visit Indianapolis (4-6-1) next Monday night.
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