The Ohio shootout between Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow and Steelers veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger never materialized as Pittsburgh stayed unbeaten with a 36-10 victory Sunday at Heinz Field.
Roethlisberger, who didn't practice last week, took advantage of an undermanned Bengals secondary and threw four touchdown passes for 333 yards and a 110.1 passer rating. Burrow, who came back on the field to hand off for the final series after limping off following the Steelers' fourth and final sack, struggled in the second half with accuracy and went 21 of 40 for 213 yards and a 76.4 passer rating.
Two first-quarter fumbles, some key penalties in the second quarter and uncharacteristic shoddy special teams play didn't help.
The second half came down to third down and a Bengals offense that came into the game clicking at nearly 60 percent on third down in their previous three games, missed on all 13 third-down conversions.
Down to three cornerbacks when slot cornerback Mackensie Alexander went out early in the game with a concussion, the Bengals defense held on for as long at it could (when is the last time they held the Steelers to 29 yards rushing late in the third quarter?), but it caught up to them in the third quarter when Roethlisberger drilled three straight third downs to set up an 11-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool for a 29-7 lead in the middle of the third quarter.
On the first third-and-10 Roethlisberger played pitch-and-catch for 11 yards with Claypool working against cornerback Tony Brown playing his first multiple snaps of the season. Then on third-and-two, safety Vonn Bell had good coverage on tight end Eric Ebron, but Roethlisberger extended the play and used the time to get behind Bell to make a one-handed catch for 10 yards. Then on the next third-and-10, Bell blitzed Roethlisberger out of the pocket and on the run he sliced a 12-yarder through a zone to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.
But as sharp as Roethlisberger was on third down, Burrow struggled with some wobbly throws in the third quarter after he had put up a 100 passer rating in the first half. But he ended the third quarter at 79 after going two-for-nine.
He had wide receiver A.J. Green open on one third down, but he didn't put it on the numbers and Green, who had no catches on five targets, juggled it and couldn't come down with it.
On one third-and-five, Burrow took a shot at his top receiver, Tyler Boyd over the middle, but he got dumped for virtually nothing. On another third down in the third quarter, Burrow appeared to have Boyd open, but it was a high throw on the sideline and Boyd couldn't haul it in order to survive a challenge by head coach Zac Taylor.
Rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins did get his second 100-yard game with seven catches for 115 yards.
The Bengals' usually sharp special teams had a tough day until personal protector Shawn Williams converted a fake punt for 39 yards with six minutes left and that set up a Randy Bullock field goal that made it 36-10 with 5:05 left. Punt returner Alex Erickson fumbled one away and let a couple of roll for Steeler yardage and they allowed Steeler Ray-Ray McCloud a 42-yard punt return that set up Pittsburgh's last touchdown.