PITTSBURGH — Powered by pop passes, the Wildcat formation and a rejuvenated ground game, the Pittsburgh Steelers got in the win column for the first time this season with a 27-3 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night.
More important, it charted a road map for the Steelers to succeed with quarterback Mason Rudolph in 2019.
Primarily targeting his running backs, Rudolph thrived on short-yardage throws, completing 24 of 28 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns. Rudolph averaged 8.2 yards per attempt, but 169 of his passing yards came after the catch.
Rudolph stretched the field a couple of times, but the Steelers’ game plan showed he didn’t need to. It was enough to chip away with short passes, while allowing the versatile running backs shoulder most of the offensive load. The Steelers will obviously face tougher teams than the 0-4 Bengals in the coming weeks, but Monday’s win was a step in the right direction.
Describe the game in two words:Andy Dalton with eight sacks, the offense hummed along after a sputtering start to score on four consecutive possessions spanning the second and third quarters.
Buy a breakout performance: Buy all the stock in Jaylen Samuels
Promising trend: James Conner got back on track with three plays of at least 20 yards — including a season-long 21-yard run. Conner showed visible frustration after the first three games, during which he had only one play that went more than 20 yards. Conner finished the night with 42 yards on 10 carries, and he was the Steelers’ top receiver with 83 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. On a night when JuJu Smith-Schuster was quiet, Conner’s complete performance was a difference-maker.