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Shortcomings of Bengals, backup QB Jake Browning were apparent in blowout by Steelers

INCINNATI (AP) — The Bengals’ confidence and playoff hopes came crashing down in Pittsburgh two days before Christmas.

Cincinnati has managed to squeak back into the postseason picture with three straight victories. To stay there, though, the Bengals desperately needed to defeat the Steelers on Saturday. Rather, Cincinnati (8-7) suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of one of the league’s weakest offenses.

In lieu of the injured Joe Burrow, Jake Browning, starting for the fifth time, threw three interceptions on careless passes. The Bengals’ other vulnerabilities were also exploited by the Steelers. What else is new? Cincinnati was unable to run the ball, and the defense was unable to contain Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh’s backup quarterback.


It has been since October 22 that the Steelers (8-7) had not scored 24 points in a single game.On Saturday, they won 34-11 after leading 24-0 at the half.

Why the Bengals collapsed is a mystery. The Steelers appeared vulnerable with Rudolph starting at quarterback, practice squad calls at safety and linebacker, and overall internal discord.

Sam Hubbard, the defensive end for Cincinnati, stated, “I don’t have an answer for you.”

Coach Zac Taylor stated, “We just need to keep picking up the pieces and figure out how to be better next week.”

Despite winning the AFC North the previous two seasons, the Bengals are in danger of missing the postseason. They have a New Year’s Eve show at Kansas City.

We avoid overreacting. In the past few weeks, we’ve accomplished some really fantastic things, Taylor remarked. We didn’t have a very good experience on Saturday. We simply need to accept the narrative that will be followed going forward, hold ourselves responsible for it, and be prepared to give Kansas City our best shot.


Browning threw for 335 yards and — with star receiver Ja’Marr Chase sidelined — distributed the ball to 10 receivers.


Browning is choosing poorly in a few instances. The Steelers scored scores after he intercepted two passes in the first half. Browning was sacked three times this season as a result of the poor running game, which has allowed pass rushers to apply more pressure.

Following three wins in a row in which he started, the 27-year-old Browning, who may be trying out for other teams who need a quarterback next season, seemed overmatched against the Steelers.

“Many quarterbacks had a poor performance,” he remarked. “I need to figure out how to reply. That’s where we are, and that’s where I am right now.


WR Tee Higgins had five catches for a season-high 140 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown in the third quarter.


Bengals defensive backs got smoked for two long touchdowns by George Pickens, and Rudolph was effective throwing deep.


Losing DT DJ Reader for the season hurt the Bengals’ ability to stop the run. The Steelers ran for 113 yards. … It’s unclear when Chase (shoulder) could return.


3-7 — Cincinnati’s record against AFC teams.


The Bengals must get over this disaster as soon as possible. Prior to playing Cleveland at home in the regular-season finale—which is probably going to make the playoffs for the first time since 2020—they have to play the Chiefs, who are guaranteed a spot in the postseason, at Arrowhead Stadium.

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