It didn’t help Burrow that he was missing both starting tackles, as rookie Hakeem Adeniji got his second start at left tackle in place of Jonah Williams and guard Quinton Spain moved to right tackle to fill in for Bobby Hart with Fred Johnson also unavailable while on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Williams was questionable for the game and still active despite being limited in practice this week while trying to come back from a stinger that occurred in Week 7, and Hart was inactive with a knee injury.
While Burrow was perhaps impacted by absences on his offensive line, Roethlisberger was able to take advantage of a depleted Bengals secondary, picking apart a unit that was missing four of its top five cornerbacks most of the game.
Roethlisberger, who didn’t have a normal practice all week, threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns with the Bengals using backup Tony Brown and practice squad player Jaylen Davis alongside cornerback William Jackson. Trae Waynes hasn’t played all season because of a torn pectoral muscle, Mackensie Alexander went out with a concussion in the first quarter, LeShaun Sims suffered a concussion Thursday in practice and Darius Phillips is on injured reserve with a groin issue.
The Steelers' 38-year-old quarterback went on the COVID list Wednesday after being considered in close contact with Vance McDonald, who tested positive on Tuesday, but Roethlisberger was cleared Saturday after three straight negative tests and got one quick throwing session in with his teammates ahead of the game.
Cincinnati’s offensive woes followed a slow start on special teams as well. After the Bengals defense forced a punt on the first drive, Alex Erickson fumbled the return to put the Steelers on the 32-yard line but another big stop on third down limited Pittsburgh to a 41-yard field goal by Chris Boswell.
Burrow and the offense couldn’t move the chains on their first three drives, though, and two more bad return attempts and a delay of game penalty on special teams helped Pittsburgh enjoy good field position throughout the first quarter. The Steelers added another field goal and Roethlisberger connected with Diontae Johnson on a 46-yard pass their next drive before the two connected again for a touchdown, giving them a 12-0 lead with 1:51 left in the first quarter.
The Bengals finally got a first down on their fourth possession, followed immediately by a Tee Higgins fumble, but Higgins made up for his mistake the next drive. Burrow connected with Higgins on a 54-yard pass up the middle to set up their eventual touchdown hookup on fourth down to get Cincinnati on the board, trailing 12-7 with 10:37 left in the second quarter. That was about as good as it got Sunday for the Bengals.
Pittsburgh answered with another touchdown and a field goal before halftime, for a 22-7 lead, and Roethlisberger threw a pair of touchdowns to Chase Claypool in the second half while the Steelers limited Cincinnati to three points the rest of the way. Randy Bullock’s 37-yard field goal with 5:09 left ended the scoring.
Bengals at Washington, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7