CINCINNATI — With big plays all around, Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell turned the AFC North back into a wide-open race.
Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes, including a 94-yarder to rookie Martavis Bryant in the fourth quarter, and the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Cincinnati Bengals 42-21 on Sunday, leaving the division title up for grabs.
In a game they had to win to maintain their title chances, the Steelers (8-5) ran away with 25 points in the fourth quarter. It was Pittsburgh’s most lopsided win at Paul Brown Stadium since a 38-10 win in 2008.
By the end, the only ones left in the stadium were the thousands of Steelers fans twirling their towels.
For Cincinnati (8-4-1), it was a second straight lopsided loss at home loss to a division rival. The Bengals fell to Cleveland 24-3 before going on the road and winning three straight to take control of the division.
Now, it’s a four-way tussle for the top. The Bengals play at Cleveland next Sunday and finish the season in Pittsburgh, which showed championship form when it mattered on Sunday.
Bell had another big all-around game, running for 185 yards, catching six passes for 50 yards, and scoring three touchdowns during the second half.
And Roethlisberger emerged from a three-game funk by making big plays as well, including the longest touchdown pass in the NFL this season. He finished 25 of 39 for 350 yards.
Andy Dalton and A.J. Green combined on an impressive pass-and-catch performance for Cincinnati. The receiver had 11 catches for a career-high 224 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown on the final play of the third quarter that put the Bengals ahead 21-17.
Dalton hardly missed as he helped the Bengals get the early lead, completing all but three of his passes in the first half. He also made a little Bengals history, faking a handoff to Jeremy Hill and ran 20 yards untouched for a touchdown, the longest scoring run by a quarterback in franchise history.
Dalton also made the mistake that turned the game.
He fumbled while faking another handoff to Hill, giving Pittsburgh possession at the Cincinnati 24-yard line. Bell ran 13 yards for the touchdown, and Roethlisberger’s completion for the conversion gave Pittsburgh a 28-21 lead.
The decisive play was Roethlisberger’s long pass to Bryant, who ran past cornerback Leon Hall and caught the ball in stride down the right sideline.
Coming into the game, there were questions about Roethlisberger’s passing hand, which he hit on a helmet during a loss to New Orleans a week ago. He was on target all game, his right hand bare in the December cold.