Le'Veon Bell entered rare territory with his performance on Sunday, as he became the first person since Walter Payton to have over 200 yards from scrimmage in three consecutive games.
The Steelers pounded the ball on the ground. They relied on the defense at key junctures. They occasionally eschewed going for more points to finagle field position. They settled for three points when seven would have helped a lot more.
The Steelers went back to the future. They played the type of football they prefer. The type of football the NFL has mostly forgotten.
It worked. OMG, as the kids text.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sealed the deal midway through the final quarter by hooking up with big-play big man Martavis Bryant for a 96-yard touchdown pass that gave Cincinnati a taste of its own deep-ball medicine.
But mostly, the guys in black and gold played Steelers football. By game’s end, the Steelers dominated the scoreboard. Physically, they dominated all afternoon.
The guys in tiger stripes went back to the future, too. At crunch time, the Bengals got flustered and clumsy. QB Andy Dalton put the ball on the ground when his team could least afford it. The Bengals morphed into the Bungles. They flinched.
The AFC North is more jammed than ever. Cincinnati is 8-4-1. The Steelers and Baltimore are both 8-5. Cleveland is 7-6. Attention, local scalpers: Your tickets are still worth something.
When the Steelers return to Heinz Field in two weeks, the in-game entertainment needs adjusted. Ditch “Renegade.” Styx stynx.
Get cool. Get metal. Get Metallica. “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”
Le’Veon Bell tolled for 235 yards total offense and three touchdowns on 32 touches. There may be a time to lighten Bell’s workload for the sake of his long term, but that moment is nowhere near arriving.
The Bengals had no clue how to stop Bell. No one does. As Roethlisberger recently said, Bell will be the first pick overall in every fantasy league next year. Roethlisberger is still Wyatt Earp. Bell is, just as clearly Doc Holliday.
Sunday was an odd day for Roethlisberger. Like last week, his accuracy was off in the first half. But Roethlisberger put together a big day nonetheless: 350 yards throwing, three touchdowns and a 118.5 passer rating.
David DeCastro was a hidden hero. This hasn’t been a great year for the Steelers’ guard. But his run blocking yesterday was tops, even to the naked eye. No game film necessary. DeCastro pulled, got out in front and got downfield when he could. The Steelers’ tight ends also excelled at moving people.
The Steelers control their own destiny and have a winnable game at Atlanta next week. But assuming anything with this bunch would be foolhardy.
The Steelers have defeated two division leaders, namely Cincinnati and Indianapolis. They lost to New Orleans, the Jets and Tampa Bay, who are 9-30 combined. You can’t draw a bead on the Steelers. Who are they?
The defense got some stops. But mostly, it got lucky.
Ike Taylor left the game due to injury. Third-degree burns, probably. Taylor couldn’t get near Bengals receiver A.J. Green, who had a career high 224 yards worth of catches, including receptions of 81 and 56 yards.
The Steelers took a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Bengals tied the game just 2:11 later. Eighty yards in five plays against the Saran Wrap Curtain.
But yesterday was mostly chock full of good news. Antonio Brown maintained his record, whatever it is. Mike Mitchell even appeared to defend a pass. Came close, anyway. He was in the area when a ball fell incomplete, at the very least. Cue maniacal celebration.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).