Bell's big hit sets tone as Bengals stun slumping Steelers
CINCINNATI (AP) - Bengal's safety Vonn Bell made his way to JuJu Smith-Schuster and scored a devastating hit that forced a fumble while the Steelers' receiver flew backwards.
After dancing on Cincinnati's midfield logo before the game, Smith-Schuster was planted in the turf - and the Bengal underdog was no pussycats at all in a 27:17 surprise on Monday night.
Pittsburgh's pushovers in years, the last Bengals (3-10-1) used a strong defensive to beat their AFC North rivals for the first time since 2015, and the collapsing Steelers (11-3) for their third straight defeat send.
Bell set the tone with his penalty against Smith-Schuster towards the end of the first quarter after catching a pass from Ben Roethlisberger. The ball bounced free and was salvaged by Cincinnati, one of three Pittsburgh turnovers in the game.
As promised, Smith-Schuster danced on the Bengals logo before kick-off. He did the same thing in Buffalo before losing in Week 14. Smith-Schuster was not made available to reporters after the game, but Bell gave a wry smile when asked about the hit.
"I read Ben's eyes, I saw 19 and just went and did a piece," he said. '' We talked about it on the sidelines and it just happened. ''
The Bengals had lost eleven straight games to the Steelers, and they weren't supposed to win that game - especially when third quarterback Ryan Finley made his first start to the season.
As it turned out, Cincinnati prevented Pittsburgh from winning the AFC North title in first place and made prospects for the Steelers' postseason look shaky.
The Steelers have fallen three times in a row since the season started 11-0, scoring less than 20 points in each of their last four games.
Perhaps even more surprising was the fact that the Bengals were the more physical team on Monday night, which is rarely the case in this rivalry.
Cincinnati overtook the Steelers 152-86 despite playing without running back with Joe Mixon. Giovanni Bernard ran 83 yards and a touchdown and caught a 14-yard pass for another score.
"We have to dig deep," said Steeler's linebacker TJ Watt. '' We have to find out what's wrong and get better. ''
Roethlisberger completed only two of his first eight passes when the Steelers went on seven of their first eight possessions three and three. He had an intercept and fumbled exchange in the first half as the Bengals built a 17-0 lead.
Roethlisberger finished 20 of 38 for 170 yards with a TD and a pick.
"I wasn't good enough today," he said. `` Your whole defense has thrown us off balance. ''
With leading rusher James Conner with a quadriceps injury, the Steelers relied heavily on Bennie Snell Jr., who had 84 of his 86 yards. However, Roethlisberger never came into a uniform rhythm in the passing game. And there was frustration on both sides of the ball.
"We're two weeks before the playoffs," said Pittsburgh's defensive duel against Cam Heyward. '' We have to play the games early and not be caught up in a game. To start at 17-0 you are asking a lot for our offense. And our offense has to start faster. ''
Roethlisberger continues to preach patience, but admitted that the Steelers' frustration after the loss was "high".
"I will never stop believing in this team," he said. "We'd better find out and I think we can."
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