No Christmas cheer: Bengals blitzed by Steelers

The Cincinnati Bengals suffered their first loss in December, and it was very much a nightmare before Christmas.

Cincinnati gave up an 86-yard touchdown on its first defensive drive, Jake Browning was intercepted three times, including once in the endzone in the first half, and the Pittsburgh Steelers rolled to a 34-11 win Saturday at Acrisure Stadium to scramble the AFC playoff picture once again.

Pittsburgh (8-7) held Cincinnati to just 59 yards rushing and forced three turnovers, and the Steelers enjoyed their best offensive performance of the season under their third-string quarterback as Mason Rudolph got his first start since 2021 – and first win since 2019 -- in place of Mitch Trubisky.

Saturday’s win keeps Pittsburgh alive in the playoff hunt, while the Bengals (8-7) are still without an AFC North win.

The Steelers cruised to a 24-0 halftime lead with the help of Rudolph’s 86-yard touchdown pass to George Pickens on the team’s opening drive. That was followed by Browning’s throw-away to the end zone that Patrick Peterson easily picked off, and the Steelers took advantage with a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive.

Browning threw another interception deep in his own territory in the second quarter, and that put Pittsburgh on the 14-yard line, setting up Najee Harris’ 3-yard touchdown run to make it 21-0 with 7:13 left before halftime.

Two minutes later, the Bengals made it back into the red zone but three times failed to get a yard from the Pittsburgh 5-yard line and turned it over on downs. Another explosive play helped Pittsburgh drive the dagger in further, as Rudolph connected with Pickens on a 44-yard pass to set up Chris Boswell’s 50-yard field goal as time expired.

The Bengals seemed to be turning things around coming out of halftime when they forced a punt for just the second time Saturday on the opening drive of the half and Browning threw a 80-yard touchdown pass to Tee Higgins on the next play from scrimmage.

Hope faded when Pickens stunned Cincinnati again on the following drive with a 66-yard touchdown reception. The Bengals’ next three possessions ended in a turnover on downs, an Evan McPherson field goal and another Browning interception, which then led to another Boswell field goal.

Browning completed 28 of 42 passes for 335 yards with three interceptions and one touchdown.

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