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Three Down Look: Bengals Stomp Steelers in Historic Win

Cincinnati now has the fifth-best point differential in the NFL.

CINCINNATI — It feels like 1989.

The Pittsburgh Steelers officially passed the torch to the Cincinnati Bengals in a 41-10 home-team domination at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.

The defense put together a second-straight complete showing coming off of the bye week and shut down a Steelers offense that had started hitting its stride. The Bengals are showing that, at their best, there aren't any clear weak links on the roster.

The win keeps them right in the middle of the AFC North race with the 8-3 Baltimore Ravens. 

Here's our Three Down Look on Cincinnati's biggest win in the rivalry since 1989.

Motoring Mixon

Joe Mixon picked a great time to put up the best performance of his career. The bell cow running back ran for a career-high 165 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries.

A plan in the making since January, the wide-zone scheme came full circle on Sunday. Offensive line coach Frank Pollack just needed some consistent clay, and we are seeing how fruitful his system can be.

Mixon had his best career rushing season last time he paired with Pollack's blocking gameplan (1,168 rush yards in 2018). He's on pace to shatter that mark from three years ago, and games like Sunday are why. The Bengals have been very healthy on the offensive line so far this year, and that chemistry helped open plenty of rush lanes for Mixon while he cracked a few himself.

Mixon's cutback ability pairs perfectly with a wide-zone attack. Pittsburgh had no answer for the symphony Mixon and company created. The maulers opened holes; while he ran through them with abandon, amassing 124 yards after contact. At 6-1, 220 pounds, he isn't someone defenses want to be tackling late in games.

Mixon finished the contest with a game-high 10.3 EPA, a rare feat for any running back. Overall, Cincinnati is sixth in rushing EPA/play over the past two weeks (0.079). The Bengals emerged as a sound running team out of the bye week, with a cool-and-collected quarterback at every moment.

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Defense Rolls Roethlisberger

Sunday was arguably Cincinnati's best defensive performance of the season, and it had a little bit of everything. Ben Roethlisberger should get his AARP application ready to send in the mail after this week.

He was directly involved in all three of the Steelers turnovers, proving once again he is a shell of himself at this stage of his career. Roethlisberger finished 24-of-41 for 263 yards passing, one touchdown, two interceptions, and a lost fumble.

The 39-year-old veteran was flat-out awful. He totaled -15.6 total EPA and a 28.2 ESPN QBR. Roethlisberger looked slow and was unable to escape pressure, just like in Week 3. The Bengals had all of the answers on his three turnovers.

Eli Apple nearly returned the first interception to the house after Roethlisberger miscommunicated with his target, who ran the wrong route. Then Mike Hilton captured the first pick-six of his football career, just before the half. Roethlisberger left a hanging duck up for grabs on James Washington's out route, and Hilton picked it out of the air.

Any chance of a comeback left the Steelers' plans when Trey Hendrickson strip-sacked Roethlisberger two drives later. The Bengals premier 2021 free-agent signing is making a strong case as the best player Cincinnati has ever signed off the street.

Hendrickson (10.5 2021 sacks, t-5th league wide) directly impacted all three turnovers on Sunday and will set the franchise's single-season sack record if he keeps up this level of play.

Teeing Up Bombs

Cincinnati had been looking for a way to get Tee Higgins more involved—they had no issues on Sunday. Higgins paced the Bengals in receiving yards (114), catches (six), and targets (eight) against the Steelers.

The performance proved Cincinnati isn't hellbent on feeding Ja'Marr Chase; they'll take whatever the defense gives them. Patience proved powerful on Sunday.

Higgins was a solid No. 1 option and is starting to push the right buttons in becoming a great No. 2. The second-year receiver finished second behind Mixon with 6.8 total EPA and notched his third career game with five-plus catches and 100-plus receiving yards.

The Bengals beat the Steelers with three catches for 39 yards from Chase and less than 200 yards passing from Joe Burrow. Great NFL teams find a lot of different ways to win throughout a season. The Bengals displayed another form in their most dominant showing against Pittsburgh this century.

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