The Bengals played out an Orange-and-Black fantasy Sunday at jammed and jacked Paul Brown Stadium when they shredded the Steelers on every drive of the first half in building a 31-3 halftime lead that mushroomed into a devastating 41-10 AFC North victory.
It marked the first time since Dec. 2, 1990 that the Bengals had won three straight against the estimable, respected and detested Steelers, stunningly outrushed 194-35.
Just like their offensive line in racking up those season-high 194 yards rushing (the most against Pittsburgh in 21 years), the 7-4 Bengals knocked back the 5-5-1 Steelers and zoomed to a half-game behind the division-leading Ravens before Baltimore's game against Cleveland Sunday night.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow's offense scored every time they had it in the first half as he point guarded 14 of 16 passes for 154 yards. Everything they did worked. Running back Joe Mixon raced for 117 yards on 20 carries in the first half alone and wide receiver Tee Higgins almost matched him. Mixon finished with a career best 165 yards on 28 carries as the Bengals piled up 40 points on the Steelers for the first time since a 41-10 victory on Sept. 17, 1989 at Riverfront Stadium.
Burrow, now 2-1 against Pittsburgh, finished 20 of 24 for 190 yards and a 96.2 passer rating.
Higgins' five catches in the first half left him just five yards shy of 100 on the way to his first 100-yard game of the year with 114 on six catches.
With everyone wondering when Higgins would have a break-out game this season, he answered with a 32-yard touchdown catch to make it 17-3. It was vintage Tee. Burrow saw he had him one-on-one with cornerback James Pierre (a tough day in place of the injured Joe Haden) down the right side running into the end zone and lofted a jump ball and Higgins complied by ripping the rebound away from Pierre.
But even though the offense racked up a seamless 261 yards in the half and 366 yards for the game, it was the defense that had the final word. Burrow made one of his only two mistakes with about a minute left when he overthrew a deep ball that got picked by Pro Bowl safety Minkah Fitzpatrick at the Steelers 3 and returned it to the Pittsburgh 21.
The Bengals were incensed how Steelers sack ace T.J. Watt manhandled Burrow on Fitzpatrick's return. Watt not only held him up around the neck, but body-slammed him. It was all frustration. Watt, who came in with 20 quarterback hits, didn't get near Burrow, although Burrow did get sacked twice in the half.
The offensive line gathered as Burrow and Watt untangled and Bengals head coach Zac Taylor argued vehemently.
On this day nothing mattered. On the next snap, former Steelers slot cornerback Mike Hilton lived the ultimate sweet moment. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wobbled one out to the sideline and Hilton, snubbed by the Steelers in free agency, was all over it, stepping in front of wide receiver James Washington and grabbing it at the same at the Pittsburgh 24. All there was left to do for Hilton was to lay the ball on the end zone turf for his first career pick-six with 30 seconds left and that 31-3 halftime lead.
From, there it was one long trip to the record book.
In the second half end Trey Hendrickson logged a sack-strip of Roethlisberger, giving him a Bengals-record seven straight games with at least a sack.
When Mixon bucked over from the one-yard line to make it 41-3 with 13:10 left in the game, he had his own club record with his fourth straight multiple touchdown game.
Scroll through some of the best game action images from the Week 12 game as the Bengals faced the Steelers.
Mixon carried ten times in the first quarter for 59 yards and his first bolt of the day, a 25-yardser, set the tone when he knifed through a zone behind left guard Quinton Spain and left tackle Jonah Williams and wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase's block downfield. The rushing numbers after the first quarter were out of a Who Dey dream: Bengals 67, Steelers four.
Nirvana happened right away on the game's first drive.
From the Steelers 8, Burrow spun away from linebacker Alex Highsmith and found himself one-on-one on with Fitzpatrick. He juked, Fitzpatrick went the other way and Burrow dove and stretched out the ball for his first rushing touchdown of the season.
He had to throw it just twice on that opening drive that became the jackhammer foreshadowing.
On his first throw of the game it looked like Roethlisberger tried to hit wide receiver Chase Claypool on his back shoulder deep down the right sideline, but it hung out there short. Cornerback Eli Apple turned around for his second interception in eight passes over the last two games and returned it inside the Steelers 5.
Mixon tried to pound it on the first two snaps and got to the 1. But on third down, they tried to throw and Burrow took the goal-line sack. It looked like he had receivers available, but he didn't have time when he got flushed out of the pocket and end Chris Wormley waiting for the sack.
It was his last mistake that would matter.
Evan McPherson's 31-yard field made it 10-0 just nine minutes into the game. He would hit a 51-yarder in the second half, his seventh 50 of the season and three shy of the NFL rookie record.