Giovani Bernard celebrates after the first of his two touchdowns on the night.
The Law Firm and The G-Man.
Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, known as The Law Firm, admitted he and sleek backfield mate Giovani Bernard may have a nickname coming after they took turns casing the Steelers on Monday night with their version of Thunder and Lightning.
"We'll come up with something," Green-Ellis said after he got 25 of his 75 yards in the last drive that robbed the Steelers of the clock. "You're better at that than me, but I'll have to approve."
The Law Firm and The G-Man?
The Cincinnati O-line took over the game in the second half and made it cool to be on the Bengals offense Monday night in the bone-jarring 20-10 victory at Paul Brown Stadium that sent a message to the rest of the AFC North as left tackle Andrew Whitworth and the Bengals stared down and pushed back Troy Polamalu and the rest of the big, bad Steelers.
The Bengals did what the Steelers have done to them for 13 years in this building. They annexed the clock with a physical ground game that kept the ball more than 35 minutes and piled up 407 yards because they paired it with a defense that was nasty and good on third down nine out of 12 times.
It was a typical AFC North grind job with the Bengals down to three cornerbacks for most of the fourth quarter when cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick suffered a hamstring injury and right end Michael Johnson checked back in after he was evaluated for a possible concussion.
Then the defense was its typical solid Mike Zimmer self, blanking Pittsburgh in the second half, holding the Steelers to minus-two yards of offense in the second half until the last desperate seven minutes, and limiting them to 44 yards on the ground for the fewest rushing yards allowed to the Steelers in the 14 seasons of the new century.
"Coach Zimmer had an excellent game plan. It was to stop the run first," said defensive tackle Domata Peko, who had one-half of Cincinnati's two sacks. "We got that job done and we had a little bit of a lead and we were able to pin their ears back. We may not have sacked him a lot. We had two on him today but we had pressure in his face all day."
But even Peko was saying how cool it was to be on the offense, pointing to his impressive stint at fullback in that last drive.
"Offense is awesome," Peko said.
Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor shut down wide receiver A.J. Green's long ball, holding him to six catches for 41 yards with a long of 10, but the two Bengals tight ends each had 66 yards with rookie Tyler Eifert making the longest catch by a Bengals tight end since 2004 with a 61-yarder, and Jermaine Gresham setting up the winning points with a catch-and-bull 26-yarder.
"Same old Steelers; nothing deep," Green said. "The tight ends had good games underneath."
Offense even overshadowed Bengals SAM linebacker James Harrison's showdown with his old team. Harrison's name didn't appear on the stat sheet, but enough of his ex-teammates paid him homage before and after the game that they noticed his presence.
"It's no more of a game than it was any other game," Harrison said. "Except for it was a divisional game, and then a little more. But that's about it."
Throw in Bernard with the longest catch by a Bengals running back since Brian Leonard had a 37-yarder in 2011 when his 27-yard touchdown off a simple checkdown pass caught the Steelers No. 1 defense flat-footed and the offense was a downright blast. Bernard's seven-yard touchdown run earlier in the game made him the first Bengals rookie since Stan Fritts in the epic Ken Anderson-O.J. Simpson duel in 1975 to score his first two career touchdowns on Monday night.
"It was just a normal checkdown pass," Bernard said. "When I came out (into the flat), I saw somebody slipping. I don't know who it was, so my eyes kind of got big. I saw them drop back, so I knew it was there for a big play. Andy was able to find me."
This is why the Bengals made Bernard the first back taken in the April draft. When he stuck his foot in the ground to take it upfield, inside linebacker Kion Wilson and safety Ryan Clark look moored to the turf.
"I was telling Hue during the week that the zones they drop off are so deep," Green-Ellis said of running backs coach Hue Jackson. "They lose the back. They're 15 yards deep. He took off."
The G-Man carried just eight times for 38 yards and The Law Firm got his 75 on 22 carries, but when the Bengals went back to the run in the second half things got a lot easier. Even before quarterback Andy Dalton threw nine times in a hurry-up drill at the end of the half, the Bengals had already passed it 23 times even though their eight runs had netted 46 yards.
In the second half, the ratio was reversed with 24 runs to 12 passes as the Bengals hogged the clock for 35:34, always a key to beating Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
"Our offensive line did a great job and we were able to hit on some good runs," Green-Ellis said. "We were able to take time off the clock. When you run the ball, you're able to test a man's will and we were able to do that. If you can't stop it, it just takes the oomph out of them. You take the momentum when you just continually run it on them and you can hear them say. 'We've got to stop it.' "
How many times had Pittsburgh come into Cincinnati's house and asserted its will?
"It means a lot," Whitworth said. "If you can run the ball against this team, you can run the ball against a lot of people. To be able to run the ball well says something about the potential we have. This is a team that even in years when we ran the ball really well we had a tough time running the ball on them. We've got a young nucleus that's got a good future ahead of it.
"We have the potential to have a really good line and we showed it to put up 400 yards of offense. And we still left some good things out there."
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was concerned with the skirmish that broke out near the end of the game (and he went for a ride as he tried to pull guys off the scrum on the Bengals sideline) and spoke to it almost immediately. Especially after a loss of composure cost his team so dearly the week before.
"We've got to keep coaching harder on that, eliminate that," Lewis said. "You saw it in all the games this weekend that I saw. I don't know what's going on right now."
But Whitworth drew a huge ovation after his tiff with Polamalu in the final moments as the Bengals played keepaway.
"You've got to have pride in this place," Whitworth said. "The fans came out, they were loud. They've got to take pride in making this a really hard place to play. We've got to produce every week for them so they get excited about it. If we can make this a place where you can steal eight wins because you make it a tough place to play, you have a chance to have a really good year.
"And that's what we've got to continue to do; play well at home, make the fans want to come out and we'll have a chance to do what we want to do."
The offense, led by The Law Firm and the G-Man, seemed to have as much fun as the fans.