Game ball goes to: WR Antonio Brown
Brown became only the second receiver in team history to have 95 catches in a season. He also made the two biggest plays of the game that helped the Steelers jump to an early 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Brown caught a 12-yard touchdown -- his fifth in the past five games -- to make it 14-0. Then, after the defense forced a three-and-out, he returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown, the second of his career. "It's always great when you can dictate the game and play ahead and not play catch-up," Brown said.
The countdown: A quick look at the top performances from the game Sunday against the Bengals
1. Muffed punt: In a year in which they have had few game-changing plays from the special teams, the Steelers got the first of two on the Bengals' first possession when punter Kevin Huber muffed the snap and safety Will Allen tackled him at the Cincinnati 1. Two plays later, Le'Veon Bell scored on a 1-yard run to start the biggest first-quarter production of the season. "I thought it was a safety at first," Allen said. "Better that it wasn't. We started fast, and we played fast."
2. Bell rings: On fourth-and-4 at the Bengals 33, Bell took a short pass from Roethlisberger and turned it into a 16-yard gain, keeping alive a drive that ended with a touchdown for a 14-0 lead.
3. Plenty of time: Two plays after a fourth-down conversion, Roethlisberger had plenty of time to throw when the Bengals rushed only two players and he found Antonio Brown for a 12-yard touchdown.
4. Big series: Emmanuel Sanders, who had critical drops in each of the past two defeats, caught three consecutive passes, including a 21-yarder, on an 11-play, 60-yard drive that ended with the first of Shaun Suisham's three field goals for a 24-0 lead.
5. Batted attempt: Rookie OLB Jarvis Jones, who replaced injured LaMarr Woodley after the first series, batted a 2-point conversion pass after the Bengals scored on a 13-yard pass to make it 30-20. The play prevented the Bengals from making it a one-possession game.
"I thought we rode the wave that the special teams provided there early on in the first half of the game with a short field on a botched punt and then, obviously, the punt return. But [it was] just largely a really good effort by a lot of people in all three phases and what was required, obviously, versus a very good team. We appreciate the opportunity and it was good to get the win."
-- Mike Tomlin
Inside the numbers
207 That was the number of passes without an interception by Ben Roethlisberger, a streak that ended when Bengals cornerback Adam Jones intercepted a pass intended for Emmanuel Sanders at the Cincinnati 2 in the third quarter.
What was he thinking?
The Steelers were without two starters on the defensive line -- Brett Keisel, who missed his fourth start in the past five games; and nose tackle Steve McLendon -- but their replacements came up big. Ziggy Hood had the only sack of the game and recovered a fumble, and Al Woods had a big third-down stop and batted a pass. Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie Giovani Bernard rushed 17 times for 37 yards. "I was feeding off of Cam," Woods said, referring to Heyward. "Cam told me to go and get after it and I did."
X's and O's
After allowing a league-high 11 scrimmage plays of 50 yards or longer, including seven passes, the defense didn't allow a play longer than 19 yards against the Bengals. What's more, the Bengals rushed 22 times for only 57 yards, tying their season low, and didn't have a run longer than 9 yards. It was the second-fewest rushing yards allowed by the Steelers this season. "Stopping the run early was the key," defensive end Cam Heyward said. "Even when they got [some yards], it wasn't like they were going anywhere."
The Steelers (6-8) play the Green Bay Packers (7-6-1) at 4:25 p.m. Sunday at Lambeau Field. The Steelers have won three in a row and seven of the past nine regular-season meetings, but the Packers won the previous meeting, in Super Bowl XLV.