Analysis: What we learned from Cincinnati Bengals' dominating 41-10 win over Pittsburgh Steelers

Kelsey Conway
Cincinnati Enquirer

The Cincinnati Bengals improved to 7-4 on the season following a dominating performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday. Cincinnati's 41-10 win over Pittsburgh marks the first time the Bengals have swept the Steelers since 2009.

The Bengals are now 3-1 in the AFC North.

Doc:This Bengals win was for you, fans. An exorcism confirmed, amen.

'Changing of the guard':Bengals demolish the Steelers in a landscape-changing win

Sunday's game was the Bengals' best offensive performance of the season. From the opening drive that started with a heavy dose of Joe Mixon, Cincinnati imposed its will on Pittsburgh for the entire game.

The Bengals went into halftime with a 31-3 lead over the Steelers after a pick-six by Mike Hilton with 0:07 to play in the first half. 

The Bengals put the game out of reach in the third quarter when the team took a 34-3 lead and Burrow's day was done with 10:36 to play in the fourth quarter. 

"We've got great players," Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said following the game. "Our coaching staff has tremendous cohesion right now and chemistry. And there's just so much belief back and forth between coaches and players that this is the kind of thing that we're capable of." 

Here's what we learned from the Bengals' Week 12 win over the Steelers: 

Joe Mixon sets new career-high with impressive rushing performance against Steelers

In the Bengals' Week 11 win over the Raiders, the Bengals ran Joe Mixon 30 times and he rushed for more than  100 yards.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) celebrates a rushing touchdown with Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28) in the first quarter during a Week 12 NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

Against the Steelers, the Bengals followed a similar blueprint. Mixon rushed for 165 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns. This performance topped his previous career-high of 162 yards in a game.

Pittsburgh's head coach Mike Tomlin said in his weekly press conference prior to the game his team couldn't let Mixon get going and although the Steelers knew he was coming, they couldn't stop him.

Mixon is playing with extreme confidence right now and it's justified. In the last two weeks, neither of the Bengals' opponents have been able to stop him. He's now rushed for multiple touchdowns in four straight games and believes he's playing the best he has in his career thus far. 

"To be honest, I think I'm starting to reach that point in my prime," Mixon said of his play. "I'm starting to get there. I know what type of speed the defense is coming with. I know how to slow the game down myself." 

Tee Higgins has best game of 2021 season 

It had been a while since Tee Higgins has taken over a game. Against the Steelers, Higgins was Joe Burrow's main target. He finished the day with six catches for 114 yards and one touchdown.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (85) catches a touchdown pass as Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback James Pierre (42) defends in the second quarter during a Week 12 NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

Higgins made several contested catches that turned into explosive plays for Cincinnati. Higgins' eye-popping 32-yard touchdown play put the Bengals up 17-3 and was one of the most impressive plays of the season. 

"I saw the safety was cheating towards Chase so I knew I was about to get single coverage, one-on-one. Joe gave me a chance, and I came down with it," Higgins said of the play. 

Cincinnati's defense puts cherry on top of performance with three turnovers 

Mike Hilton, Trey Hendrickson and Eli Apple all forced turnovers. All three were given game balls by  Taylor for their roles in the win.

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple (20) runs back a interception, setting up a Bengals field goal, in the first quarter of the NFL Week 12 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021.

Apple's came first when he picked off Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the first quarter. He now has interceptions in back-to-back games after picking off Derek Carr last week in Las Vegas.

Hilton's pick-six on Roethlisberger essentially put the game out of reach heading into halftime and the Bengals' bench area erupted to celebrate Hilton making a statement play against his former team.

Hendrickson, who now has a sack in the last seven games, took Roethlisberger down and forced a fumble on the play.

The Bengals have been emphasizing creating more turnovers on defense and they came in bunches against the Steelers. 

"We got to stop the run if you want to get after Ben," Hendrickson said of the defensive plan heading into the game. "If you make him one dimensional, you'll know tendencies. There was a heightened sense this week."