PITTSBURGH – After weeks of quarterback controversy, the Pittsburgh Steelers discovered stability – and success – behind Mason Rudolph in a 34-11 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Rudolph, who began the season third on the Steelers’ QB depth chart, restored confidence to a faltering Steelers offense that has been lacking starter Kenny Pickett since struggling a proper ankle harm on Dec. 3.
Pittsburgh (8-7) jumped out to a 24-0 lead within the first half and the Bengals (8-7) had been by no means inside placing distance. The loss is a big blow to Cincinnati’s playoff chase, dropping its odds to 14%. Listed here are an important details about every group’s efficiency:
With a quarterback named Rudolph and a depleted protection of misfit toys, the Steelers pulled off an unbelievable victory over Christmas weekend towards the Bengals. Rudolph not solely guided the offense to 6 scoring drives and a 24-point first half — probably the most scored by the Steelers within the opening body since Week 7 of the 2020 season — however a protection that performed with out its prime 4 safeties and prime gamers. three inside linebackers held the Bengals offense to a shutout within the first half, solely 11 factors complete, and compelled Bengals quarterback Jake Browning to throw three interceptions.
As soon as vilified by the fanbase for his struggles throughout the 2019 season, Mason Rudolph heard his identify chanted across the stadium not less than 4 occasions within the fourth quarter.
The win boosted the Steelers’ dwindling playoff hopes by snapping a three-game skid, and it additionally calmed a few of the noise surrounding coach Mike Tomlin and his locker room, which has been closely criticized of late for an absence of management and dedication. The problem for the Steelers now’s to hold the momentum from this win into an important ultimate two weeks of the season.
Purchase on a breakout efficiency: W. George Pickens. The week main as much as Saturday’s recreation was all about Pickens within the worst manner. His try to dam a play within the loss to the Indianapolis Colts was panned and he got here underneath hearth for some regarding conduct. It took solely two performs to quiet the critics. On the second play of the Steelers’ first possession, Pickens caught a brief go from Rudolph and turned it into an 86-yard landing, the Steelers’ longest landing since 2018. He had one other landing within the second half, ending with a career-high 195 yards on 4 catches, giving him over 1,000 yards for the season.
Daring prediction for subsequent week: Rudolph begins towards the Seattle Seahawks. The Steelers have been on the lookout for electrical quarterback play all season and will have discovered it simply in time. Sophomore QB Pickett was a restricted participant in apply every day final week as he rehabilitated from surgical procedure on his proper ankle. After surgical procedure on December 4, Pickett’s estimated timeline to return was between three and 4 weeks. However with Rudolph displaying up towards the Bengals, it will be clever to experience the recent hand.
Essential recreation: Rudolph to George Pickens for 44 yards on third-and-15. Not solely did Pickens get each ft on the bottom – confirmed by a replay – however the go was additionally the longest completion by air yards for a Steelers quarter all season. The completion stored the drive going, stopping the Bengals from getting the ball again earlier than halftime. The Steelers finally scored a 50-yard area objective as time expired, giving them a 24-0 halftime lead – their largest halftime lead since Week 4 of 2016.
Eye-popping statistic: The Steelers recorded 178 yards after the catch, probably the most in a recreation since 2021. Coming into Saturday’s recreation, Steelers go catchers had been averaging simply 94 YAC per recreation, which ranked them twenty seventh within the league. got here into in the present day’s recreation having averaged 94 YAC per recreation this season, twenty seventh within the league. –Brooke Pryor
Subsequent recreation: on the Seahawks on Sunday, December 31
A resurgent season was abruptly derailed Saturday in Pittsburgh.
The Bengals had been defeated, ending a three-game profitable streak and considerably decreasing Cincinnati’s playoff hopes.
Coming into Week 16, the Bengals had been tentatively positioned in a wild card spot with three weeks left within the common season. Within the week main as much as the AFC North recreation, Bengals gamers talked in regards to the significance of the sport to their playoff possibilities.
However the loss to the Steelers could also be an excessive amount of to beat. The Bengals trailed 24-0 at halftime and now probably have to beat Kansas Metropolis and Cleveland to succeed in the postseason for the third straight season. Based on ESPN Analytics, Cincinnati’s playoff possibilities drop to 14% after the loss.
Describe the sport in two phrases: Big letdown. The Bengals could not reap the benefits of a Steelers group in turmoil and had been demolished regardless of being highway favorites.
Greatest gap within the recreation plan: About George Pickens. A lot for all of the discuss Pickens signing up. Pickens had a few large performs that broke down Cincinnati’s protection. His 86-yard landing on Pittsburgh’s first possession was largely as a consequence of a missed deal with. His second landing got here on a go route down the left sideline in a 1-on-1 play towards cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. Based on ESPN Stats & Info, Pickens is the second participant in Steelers historical past to have a number of receiving touchdowns of 60 or extra yards in a single recreation.
QB breakdown: Browning was removed from the participant who had helped the Bengals win three video games in 4 begins. He tried to increase performs and made key turnovers in some spots. Browning threw an interception within the pink zone on Cincinnati’s first drive of the sport. He had one other interception within the first half and likewise had a fumble that Cincinnati recovered. He completed 28 of 42 with 335 yards and was sacked thrice. For the second time this yr, the Steelers obtained one of the best of him.
Eye-popping Subsequent Gen Stats: Browning was blindsided on simply three of his first 39 go makes an attempt. On the 34 pitches the place he wasn’t blitzed, he was pressured 17 occasions. — Ben Child
Subsequent recreation: at Chiefs on Sunday, December 31