Steelers claim first victory of season as Bengals remain winless

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The Pittsburgh Steelers ended their losing start to the NFL season by beating the struggling Cincinnati Bengals 27-3.

Both teams originally thought this historic rivalry would have some different faces highlighting the matchup on Monday.

Instead of the Andy Dalton-Ben Roethlisberger quarterback showdown, recently appointed Steelers starting quarterback Mason Rudolph is the one who turned in a prime-time performance.

And it was Rudolph who came away with the win for the first of his career as the Steelers improved to 1-3, while the Bengals dropped to 0-4.

Here are three takeaways from the Steelers' lopped-sided win against the Bengals:


Rudolph tries the deep ball — and succeeds

Rudolph has almost solely relied on quick, short passes in his first two games (one start) with the Steelers. It posed the question of whether or not Rudolph can hit targets downfield.

The Oklahoma State product knew he had to attempt longer passes against the Bengals but through the first half of Monday's game, it was more of the same. In Rudolph's second start, he was still using those quick, short passes.

But finally, in the third quarter, Rudolph showed off his arm. He found Diontae Johnson for a 43-yard touchdown pass to bolster the Steelers' already commanding lead.

Granted, it was only one pass, and it was into broken coverage, but it was a positive sign. Rudolph finished 24-of-28 passing for 229 yards and two touchdowns.

Cincinnati's offensive line continue to struggle

An offense cannot do much with a sorry offensive line and getting the run game going is seemingly impossible if an opportunity is not created for a running back. It has been a problem for the Bengals, and both were on full display at Heinz Field. 

Even if Dalton wanted to hand the ball off, he was barely on his feet long enough to do so. He was sacked a total of eight times – the most in a game in his career – as the Steelers' defense shredded what the Bengals put out to protect the nine-year veteran.

The Bengals entered the game with the worst rushing offense in the league, averaging just 41.7 yards per game. Joe Mixon surpassed that Monday night with 62 yards on 15 carries, an admirable performance behind this offensive line. But the Bengals need help up front.

The primetime matchups have been duds

No one can factor in injuries or other variables when making the primetime schedule, and the rivalry between these two AFC North teams is a story in and of itself. But through the first four weeks of the season, most of these marquee matchups have been bad.

Luckily, the NFL's flex window opens on Sunday, so if a game is really bad NBC can replace the previously scheduled Sunday night game with a better one. 

Unfortunately, we will still be stuck with less-than-ideal matchups, including Week 5's "Monday Night Football" contest pitting the hot-and-cold 2-2 Cleveland Browns against the undefeated San Francisco 49ers, who will be coming off their bye week.