Steelers pile up season-high 421 yards without Canada, beat Bengals 16-10
Days after firing offensive coordinator Matt Canada, the Pittsburgh Steelers showed new life on offense.
Kenny Pickett threw for a season-high 278 yards and the Steelers outlasted the Joe Burrow-less Cincinnati Bengals 16-10 on Sunday.
In their first game since Canada's dismissal — the franchise's first in-season coordinator or head coach change since 1941 — the Steelers (7-4) totaled 421 yards, snapping a streak of 58 games without gaining 400 yards.
“I’m not going to paint with a broad brush and act like, ‘Eureka!’” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. "We did what we needed to do to win today, and we’ll keep pushing. That’s our job, and we did it. I’m happy that we won.”
With running backs coach Eddie Faulkner running the offense on an interim basis and quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan calling plays, the Steelers outgained their opponent for the first time this season. Pickett looked more comfortable, Pat Freiermuth had a career-high 120 yards and Najee Harris ran for 99.
“We did what we needed to do,” Tomlin said. "We spread the ball around. Changed some things up schematically. We attacked down the field when there were split safeties.”
Chris Boswell kicked two fourth-quarter field goals to keep the Bengals at bay. Cincinnati (5-6) got a field goal from Evan McPherson just before the two-minute warning, but the Steelers recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
Bengals backup Jake Browning threw a touchdown pass in his first start but had trouble keeping the chains moving. He finished 19 for 26 for 227 yards and threw an interception in the red zone.
Browning got the start in place of Burrow, the franchise quarterback whose season ended when he tore a ligament in his right wrist in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 16.
The Steelers are trying to keep pace with the Ravens and Cleveland Browns in the AFC North. Pittsburgh had won nine straight one-score games before a 13-10 loss to Cleveland last week, when Pickett had just 106 yards passing and the offense totaled 249 yards.
Wide receiver Diontae Johnson had a sideline altercation with Tomlin during the game, and Harris sounded off to reporters after about the offense's repeated failures.
Canada was fired two days later.
“To bounce back after a loss, it just shows the resiliency of this group,” Pittsburgh linebacker T.J. Watt said. “We could have made a bunch of excuses this week. I’m really proud of us for sticking together and getting back on track. It feels good.”
Pittsburgh moved the ball more effectively early Sunday, marching into the red zone in the first quarter before Jaylen Warren lost a fumble.
Later, the Steelers ate up nearly eight minutes of the third quarter with a 14-play, 79-yard drive that Najee Harris finished with a 5-yard rushing touchdown. That put the Steelers up 10-7 at the end of the third. Harris finished with 99 yards.
“We stayed together in a time of adversity and got a big win on the road,” Pickett said. “There were a lot of moving parts.”
The Bengals (5-6) showed they will likely have a tough time getting back to the playoffs without Burrow running the offense. They were 2 for 10 on third down and managed just 222 yards of total offense.
Cincinnati took advantage of a short field in the second quarter with a 46-yard kickoff return by Trayveon Williams, setting up its only touchdown. Ja’Marr Chase turned a tipped pass into a 31-yard gain, and two plays later, Browning hooked up with tight end Drew Sample for an 11-yard TD.
“I think we have a really good football team, you know, and we just got to find a way to get wins here,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said.