First HalfWell, the first 17 plays of the game included four punts, 17 total yards and a fumble by Ben Roethlisberger. Without a capable passer under center, Cincinnati advanced the ball a few yards and settled for a field goal. Next time out, the Steelers were once again stopped for a three-and-out. Ben looked like he had a few buds before kick-off as he sailed passes right at Bengal defenders and barely managed to shuffle around the pocket. Without starting kicker Randy Bullock, the backup wasn't able to get the job done after a nice drive and missed a 55-yard field goal. On the Steelers' next drive, Paul Brown Stadium witnessed the most gratifying turnover in Bengal history. For some context, here is JuJu Smith-Schuster, self-proclaimed star wide-receiver and the NFL's largest TikTok star. Before games, Smith-Schuster generally likes to focus more on perfecting his TikTok routines rather than his route-running. And he used the Cincinnati Bengals logo for his pre-game tango. Here is the TikTok he posted while the rest of his team focused on preparing for Cincinnati: [embed]https://twitter.com/JRown32/status/1341167787163660288[/embed] Notice the adults on the field, unbothered by JuJu's teenage antics, and locked-in on defeating a division rival. Fast-forward a few hours and on 3rd-and-7 Smith-Schuster's number was called... [embed]https://twitter.com/MySportsUpdate/status/1341201630713266179[/embed] Right outside the same logo that JuJu danced on before the game, Bengals safety Vonn Bell knocked. His. Head. Off! And the football came with it. There are few players more popular, yet less productive, than Smith-Schuster. My favorite stat of the night: In 2020, JuJu Smith-Schuster has posted more TikToks (95) than he's had receiving yards in a game (93). I can't get enough of this clown. Anyway, back to football. The Bengals took over and Giovanni Bernard capitalized on the momentum shift, punching in a four-yard run for a 10-nothing lead. On their next offensive possession, Pittsburgh continued its spiral into total disarray. On the tenth play of, so for, a 17-yard drive, a Bengal finally caught one of the balls Big Ben put right into their hands. Mackensie Alexander, who was just a monster last night, snagged a pick and high-stepped his way out of bounds before being shoved by a Steeler well after he stepped out. Typical Pittsburgh. Three plays, three Giovanni Bernard touches later, and the veteran running back took a 14-yard pass into the end zone for a 17-zip lead. That was your halftime score. Let's get the party started.
Second HalfAfter two Cincinnati punts and 10 Pittsburgh points to cut it to a one-score game, Steelers fans allowed their zeppelin-sized egos to be inflated again, assuming inevitable victory after a few sour Bengal drives. Well, the most despicable (in my humble opinion) bandwagon team in America let their hobbyist fanbase, boohoo. After inching within a touchdown, Ryan Finley stormed back out with vengeance. He took an obvious helmet-to-helmet shot on the third play of the drive but still managed to find AJ Green for a first down. Finley fired right up off the ground and Cincinnati was back in control. The loyal workhorse, Gio Bernard, powered that drive deep into Pittsburgh territory. At the 23-yard line, on a 2nd-and-2, Finley faked a handoff, pulled the pigskin back and whipped around the offensive line to stroll into the end zone to put Cincinnati up by two touchdowns. The Steelers responded with a touchdown on a 12-play pass-heavy drive that ended in a BENNY SNELL TOUCHDOWN (for the record, we always celebrate Benny, no matter the jersey). However, the Snell Show wasn't enough to rally the entire Steeler squad. After a fortunate Bengals three-and-out, Roethlisberger stumbled back onto the field and showcased the best comeback effort Pittsburgh had to offer: four consecutive incompletions. Get this: Folks have regularly praised Big Ben as an incredible comeback story after his elbow injury last year, and many NFL-heads believe the Steelers receiving corps is the best in the league. Well, in his four straight incompletions, Ben missed all four of his receivers. Smith-Schuster was targeted on the first, Diontaie Johnson on the second, rookie Chase Claypool on the third, and James Washington couldn't overcome quintuple coverage on 4th down. That's the best group of pass-catchers in the NFL? And all they have to show for it against a 2-10-1 rival on the final drive is four incompletions and a bunch of empty pass interference complaints. The Bengals took over, tossed one more field goal on the scoreboard for good measure, and secured a 27-17 win over their rival.
Zac Taylor, Ryan Finley, Giovanni Bernard, Lou Anarumo, and the entire defense: take a bow. You put together your masterpiece. Other than drafting Joe Burrow, this is the greatest moment in the past half-decade of Bengals football. I've called for Taylor's job several times on this site and I still think five wins over two seasons is unacceptable. However, it's impossible to ignore the bevy of positivity following that spanking of the Steelers. It's an exciting, young group that played inspired last night. They had an attitude, a punch at the line of scrimmage, a chip on their shoulder, a reason to believe. Keep on dancing JuJu, just keep on dancing. For the long-suffering loyal, local Bengal fans (so, the exact opposite of Steeler fans in this state), this was one for us. I've cleared my Christmas list; it's total bliss.