Oct 23, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws a pass against the Atlanta Falcons in the first half at Paycor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals head to Pittsburgh looking to keep pace in AFC North

The Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers have watched their seasons go in opposite directions after the Steelers won their Week 1 meeting.

The Bengals are out to avenge that loss and keep pace in the AFC North Division standings when they visit Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Joe Burrow was sacked seven times and threw four interceptions when the Bengals (5-4) fell to the Steelers 23-20 in overtime on Sept. 11. Pittsburgh managed to spoil host Cincinnati’s first game since reaching Super Bowl LVI the previous winter.

The Bengals went on to start 0-2 but have gone 5-2 since. They’re one game behind the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North race with seven games to go. The Bengals, who lost to the Ravens on Oct. 8, close the regular season by hosting Baltimore.

“That’s always the goal. That’s right there for us,” Burrow said. “We are a game out of first place. We have to go and get this one and then we will take it from there.”

In their most recent game before their Week 10 bye, the Bengals trounced the Carolina Panthers 42-21. Joe Mixon scored a career-high five touchdowns, rushing for a career-best four scores and a season-high 153 yards on 22 carries and catching four passes, including a 12-yard touchdown, for 58 yards.

“We ran the ball great two weeks ago now, but that’s just one game,” Burrow said. “So we got to build on that. The coaching staff is really excited about the plan, so am I and Joe’s looking to build on that momentum from that week.”

Burrow stands at 9,834 career passing yards through 35 regular-season games and can become the fourth-fastest in NFL history to reach 10,000 if he throws for at least 166 Sunday.

The Steelers (3-6) started Mitch Trubisky at quarterback in Week 1, but amid a four-game losing streak after that season opener they moved on to first-round selection Kenny Pickett. The rookie had one of his best performances of the season in last week’s 20-10 win over the New Orleans Saints by completing 18 of 30 passes for 199 yards and rushing for 51 yards and a touchdown.

So far Pickett is completing 66.7 percent of his passes but has just two touchdowns against eight interceptions. He said that red-zone offense is one particular area where he must improve.

“We’re not where we need to be,” Pickett said, per the team website. “Obviously, there’s less grass, so it’s tighter windows, the timing, everything is faster. I’ve got to meet the guys at certain spots with the ball and they’ve got to get there on time. The game changes when you get down there. The calls change. The system changes. There are definitely things we need to get better at.”

Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick did not practice Wednesday after having an appendectomy last Saturday. Coincidentally, Burrow was still recovering from an August appendectomy when he faced Pittsburgh in Week 1.

Asked if he had any advice for Fitzpatrick during his recovery, Burrow quipped, “Maybe wait just an extra week.”

Pittsburgh was also without cornerback Akhello Witherspoon (hamstring), linebacker Marcus Allen (illness), linebacker Devin Bush (knee), defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (knee) and offensive linemen Kevin Doston (hip) and Trent Scott (back) Wednesday. But star edge rusher T.J. Watt (pectoral) and starting running back Najee Harris (knee) were full participants.

Cincinnati would like to have star receiver Ja’Marr Chase back this week from a hip injury, but he did not practice Wednesday, nor did safety Dax Hill (shoulder) or defensive tackle Josh Tupou (calf). Coach Zac Taylor said Tupou won’t play this week.

Running back Chris Evans (knee) and cornerback Tre Flowers (hamstring) were limited participants in practice while corner Mike Hilton (finger) practiced in full.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis (13) catches the ball and scores a touchdown with Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (39) defending during the first half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Allen has career day as Bills rout Steelers

Josh Allen threw for a career-best 424 yards as the host Buffalo Bills routed the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers 38-3 on Sunday.

Allen completed 20-of-31 passes for the Bills (4-1) with four touchdowns and one interception. His previous high mark in yardage was 415 done twice in the 2020 season, while his four TD passes tied his career-best in a game.

In addition, Allen’s 13.7 yards per pass attempt also were a career best and he also ran five times for 42 yards.

Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett went 34 of 52 through the air for 327 yards and an interception in his first career start, but Pittsburgh (1-4) could not find the end zone.

The Steelers’ rushing attack struggled as the tandem of Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren combined for 44 yards on 16 carries – a yards per carry average of 2.75.

The Bills offense delivered fireworks early and often. Facing a third and long on the first series, Allen found Gabe Davis for a 98-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring. It tied the record for the longest reception in Bills’ franchise history.

Allen found Davis again for another long score in the second quarter as the wideout hauled in a pass for a 62-yard touchdown for a 17-3 lead. Davis finished with three catches for 171 yards. Fellow wideout Stefon Diggs had eight catches for 102 yards and a score.

Buffalo was 5 of 9 on third down, while Pittsburgh was 5 of 15 on third down and 0 for 3 on fourth down. The Bills doubled up the Steelers on yards per play – 10.2 to 5.1. The Steelers had the ball for nearly 13 minutes more than the Bills.

The Bills led 31-3 at halftime and didn’t attempt their first punt until the fourth quarter.
Buffalo rookie running back James Cook scored his first career rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 24-yard scamper.

Pittsburgh saw cornerback Cam Sutton (hamstring), defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (back), tight end Pat Freiermuth (concussion) and cornerback Levi Wallace (concussion) exit the game with injuries.

–Field Level Media

Dec 9, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (39) in action against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Minkah Fitzpatrick: Deal shows Steelers’ ‘commitment to winning’

A day after Pittsburgh made him the NFL’s highest-paid safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick said his payday once again proves that the Steelers are committed to winning now.

“The thing I appreciate most about this organization is commitment to winning,” Fitzpatrick told reporters Thursday at Pittsburgh’s minicamp. “Everything we do, even me coming here, is a commitment to winning.”

Fitzpatrick noted how the Steelers originally acquired him in a trade with the Miami Dolphins just hours after learning that then-quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2 of 2019.

“It could’ve been a season where we lost our starting quarterback, legendary Hall of Fame quarterback, it could’ve been a season where they just tanked and decided to call it quits. But they went out and acquired me and acquired a few other guys and said we’re going to do what we’ve got to do to win games.”

Fitzpatrick, 25, agreed to a four-year extension Wednesday that reportedly pays him more than $18.4 million per season. That eclipses Jamal Adams’ $17.5 million salary with the Seattle Seahawks.

A two-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro, Fitzpatrick recorded a career-high 124 tackles to go with two interceptions in 16 starts for the Steelers last season.

Fitzpatrick said the new contract strengthens his commitment to reward the Steelers for their faith.

“These guys trust me with this amount of money, so now it’s my duty to go out there and play at a high level and show them that I deserve this compensation,” he said.

Fitzpatrick has 352 tackles, 13 interceptions, five fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles in 64 career games (59 starts) with the Dolphins and Steelers. He was selected by the Dolphins with the 11th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

–Field Level Media

Jaguars LB (44) Myles Jack runs on the field during Wednesday's training camp session.  The Jacksonville Jaguars training camp session, Wednesday, July 28, 2021, at the team's practice fields outside TIAA Bank Field. [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]

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Reports: Steelers to sign LB Myles Jack

Myles Jack reportedly is heading to Pittsburgh. According to multiple reports Wednesday, the veteran linebacker is expected to sign a two-year deal with the Steelers worth $16 million.

Jack’s former team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, released him on Tuesday in a cost-cutting move that reported;y saved them $8.35 million. That transaction came just one day after the Jags signed six free agents.

The 26-year-old led the Jaguars in tackles last season with 108. He’e been credited with at least 90 tackles in four of his six NFL seasons.

Jack has played inside, right outside and left outside linebacker in his career. He’s totaled 513 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 17 QB hits, two forced fumbles, four recoveries, three interceptions, 15 pass breakups and two defensive touchdowns in 88 games, 82 of them starts.

He has missed nine games in six seasons since being selected in the second round (No. 36) of the 2016 NFL Draft out of UCLA.

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; ESPN analyst Louis Riddick prior to the game between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Steelers to interview ESPN’s Louis Riddick for GM post

The Pittsburgh Steelers plan to interview ESPN analyst Louis Riddick for their vacant general manager position, NFL Media reported Tuesday.

Riddick, 52, last worked in the NFL in 2013 as the Philadelphia Eagles’ director of pro personnel.

He is a Pennsylvania native and played college football at Pittsburgh.

After playing six NFL seasons with three teams, the former safety joined the Washington staff as a scout (2001-04) and director of pro personnel (2005-07) before going to Philadelphia. With the Eagles, Riddick worked as a scout (2008) and assistant director of pro personnel (2009) before his promotion to director in 2010.

A ninth-round draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 1991, Riddick posted 155 tackles and two sacks in 94 games (eight starts) with the Atlanta Falcons (1992, 1996), Cleveland Browns (1993-95) and then-Oakland Raiders (1998).

Longtime Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, 65, announced last month that he is stepping down after the 2022 NFL Draft.

Riddick reportedly interviewed for the GM vacancies with the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions following the 2020 season.

–Field Level Media

Dec 9, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22) in action against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers RB Najee Harris (elbow) expected to face Chiefs

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris has been removed from the injured list and is expected to face the host Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday night’s AFC wild-card game.

Harris, 23, injured his elbow in last Sunday’s 16-13 overtime victory over the host Baltimore Ravens. He was a full participant in Friday’s practice and the team listed him as questionable for Sunday’s game.

“It was sore for a couple of days but it’s feeling better,” Harris said after Friday’s practice.

The 24th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Alabama product finished fourth in the league with 1,200 rushing yards, which led all rookies this season. In addition to seven rushing touchdowns, Harris has 74 receptions for 367 yards and three more scores.

In the Steelers’ 36-10 loss at Kansas City on Dec. 26, Harris rushed for a game-high 93 yards on 19 carries. He also had five catches for 17 yards.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Taco Charlton (98) reaches for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) as he scrambles in the back field during the first quarter at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs rout Steelers, secure sixth straight division title

Patrick Mahomes passed for 258 yards and three touchdowns Sunday as the Kansas City Chiefs claimed their eighth straight victory and clinched a playoff berth with their sixth consecutive AFC West title by throttling the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers 36-10.

The Chiefs (11-4), who came in allowing an average of 13.3 points a game during their winning streak, secured three takeaways and did not allow the Steelers (7-7-1) to score a touchdown until 2:54 remained.

Kansas City overcame a rash of COVID-19 inactives, including Travis Kelce, Nick Bolton and Harrison Butker.

The Chiefs scored on their first four possessions and generated 381 total yards for the game while maintaining their positioning for the top seed in the AFC playoffs.

Mahomes completed 23 of 30 passes, finding Byron Pringle for two scores. Pringle caught a team-high six passes for 75 yards. Kansas City added 127 yards rushing but lost Clyde Edwards-Helaire to a collarbone injury.

Ben Roethlisberger never got in sync with his Pittsburgh receivers, going 23 of 35 for 159 yards. Najee Harris rushed for 93 yards on 19 carries.

Andy Reid earned his 102nd victory as the Chiefs’ coach, passing Marty Schottenheimer for the second-most wins in franchise history, trailing only Hank Stram (124).

Mahomes drove the Chiefs to three first-half touchdowns and a 23-0 margin at the break. Kansas City gained 112 yards in the first quarter, using 14 plays on a methodical 73-yard drive that Edwards-Helaire capped with a 1-yard burst.

Charvarius Ward then intercepted a pass by Roethlisberger on the next play from scrimmage, and the Chiefs sailed 49 yards as Mahomes fired a 5-yard touchdown to Pringle.

An 8-yard TD strike to Mecole Hardman with 2:13 left in the half came after a 44-yard field goal by Elliott Fry. That gave the Chiefs a streak of seven straight scoring drives dating to their overtime win last week over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Mahomes passed for 205 first-half yards, while Roethlisberger countered with only 88. The Chiefs posted a 17-6 advantage in first downs for the half.

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) warms up against the Las Vegas Raiders before the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

COVID absences affect Chiefs-Steelers matchup

Kansas City players forced to go through COVID-19 protocols this week gave the list a Pro Bowl feel.

At least that’s the impression made when a pair of 1,000-yard receivers, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, are among the players the Chiefs (10-4) hope to reinstate in time for a clash against the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1).

The game is still scheduled for Sunday at Kansas City, Mo.

“It’s a crazy thing, in motion, fluid,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of a list that grew to 13. Just one player in the group, Harrison Butker, got ruled out early in the week, leaving Kansas City to find Elliott Fry to replace Butker as kicker.

Of greater concern is the status of Kelce and Hill, go-to receivers who are adept at finding openings on both conventional routes and when Mahomes must improvise while dodging pass rushers.

Practice has not been altogether different with Mahomes throwing to less heralded receivers such as Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle and Josh Gordon. Willie Gay and Gordon each got removed Wednesday from the COVID list.

“It wasn’t too different. Throughout practices, we try to let other guys get some reps in,” Mahomes said. “We let those guys rest their legs because with Travis and Tyreek, they run so many routes on game days.”

Still, Mahomes is realistic about the threats posed by each of his go-to receivers as Kansas City attempts to maintain its positioning for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs and pad its seven-game winning streak.

“There’s obviously some routes that Tyreek and Travis can run that nobody else in this world really can,” Mahomes said. Just last week, each had 100-yard performances and combined for three touchdowns, including a 34-yard game-winning grab by Travis Kelce in overtime, as the Chiefs nipped the Chargers, 34-28.

Reid’s game plan against the Steelers will have to contain some contingencies due to not having key players available. Chris Jones, Lucas Niang, Nick Bolton, Rashad Fenton and Charvarius Ward were among other starters on the COVID list when practices began leading into the Pittsburgh matchup.

“We’re OK. We’ve got plenty of bodies and guys who want to play,” Reid said. “So that’s how nothing has really changed. We plug the next person in and here we go. That’s how we’re rolling now.”

The Steelers are coming off a 19-13 win over Tennessee that kept them in a bunched playoff chase, although their tie with Detroit keeps Pittsburgh a game behind five teams with 8-6 marks, including AFC North co-leaders Cincinnati and Baltimore.

“I’m not saying we’re peaking, or close to it, but we’re winning the close games, or we’re coming back or fighting. We know that there’s a little bit of life,” said Ben Roethlisberger, who has passed for 3,214 yards while also relying on the legs of rookie Najee Harris, who has 891 yards rushing.

T.J. Watt, who has recorded a club-record 17.5 sacks, leads a defensive effort that would focus on Mahomes despite the availability of other Chiefs threats.

“His arm talent, he can extend plays. He’s very elusive,” said the Steelers’ Taco Charlton, who played for Kansas City last season. “People try to say he’s not athletic, but he can turn it on when he wants to. The offense goes as he goes.”

Pat Freiermuth (concussion) and Chris Wormley (groin) did not practice for the Steelers when they began in-week preparations for the Chiefs. Starter Devin Bush began the week on the COVID-19 list with Zach Banner and Marcus Allen.

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA;  Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) hands the ball off against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Titans keep targeting AFC’s top seed against Steelers

When the Tennessee Titans visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the teams will be eyeing a win for very different reasons.

The Titans (9-4) sit in a three-way tie atop the AFC standings with four games remaining and have a chance to fend off the New England Patriots (9-4) and Kansas City Chiefs (9-4) for the conference’s top seed and only postseason bye.

Pittsburgh (6-6-1), meanwhile, needs every win it can get in order to squeeze into the postseason.

Tennessee, which snapped a two-game losing streak last weekend with a 20-0 blanking of the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, possesses very little margin for error.

“I think we’ve kind of got back to our brand of football a little bit,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “Defense did a great job of making plays on the ball, and obviously (pitched a) shutout. They did everything good. Offensively we did some good things. Obviously have some things to clean up, but excited to get a win and get rolling in that right direction.”

The Titans can clinch the AFC South with a win and an Indianapolis Colts loss to the Patriots on Saturday.

The Steelers have only one victory in their past five games — a run that began with an embarrassing home tie against the Detroit Lions and continued Sunday with a 36-28 road defeat to the Minnesota Vikings.

The Steelers stormed back in that one, nearly erasing a 29-0, third-quarter deficit, but they ultimately fell short on the final play. Now they find themselves 11th in the AFC standings, although they are a mere half-game behind a pack of five teams that sit at 7-6.

Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger remains focused on making a playoff push in what may be his final season with the team.

“I’m living right here, right now and we’ve got to make a run,” Roethlisberger said. “We’ve got to play good football. We’ve got play great football, and that starts with me. I can’t get caught looking at the end because I need to focus on right here and this week.”

Roethlisberger has multiple TD passes in four of the last five games, and he threw for 308 yards last week — his second-highest total of the season. However, the 39-year-old veteran also took five sacks against Minnesota and acknowledged Wednesday that he was sorer than usual following the contest.

Tennessee had enough offense to get past Jacksonville last week, but it likely will need to be sharper against Pittsburgh. Tannehill has thrown multiple TD passes only once since late September, and the running game, without star tailback Derrick Henry, has hit a bit of a wall.

D’Onta Foreman has been held below 50 rushing yards in four of his five games this season. Perhaps he can get going against a Steelers run defense that allows 139.5 yards per game — third worst in the NFL.

Roethlisberger (pectoral/shoulder) did not practice Wednesday but should be good to go for Sunday. Cornerback Joe Haden (foot), who also sat out Wednesday’s practice, is in danger of missing his fifth straight game. Star linebacker T.J. Watt (groin) practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and will have his status determined closer to game day.

For the Titans, seven players sat out practice Wednesday, including cornerback Janoris Jenkins (ankle) and guard Rodger Saffold III (shoulder). Linebacker Harold Landry III, who leads the team with 11 sacks, was limited due to a hamstring injury.

The Steelers have won three straight in the series, including a 27-24 victory last season as Roethlisberger and Diontae Johnson hooked up for a pair of scores.

–Field Level Media

Nov 14, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Robert Spillane (41) takes the field to warm up before he game against the Detroit Lions at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers add LB Robert Spillane to COVID list

Steelers linebacker Robert Spillane on Thursday became the third Pittsburgh player placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week.

Fellow linebacker T.J. Watt landed on the list Monday and offensive lineman Joe Haeg was added Wednesday.

Winless since Nov. 8, the Steelers (5-5-1) host the AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens (8-3) on Sunday afternoon.

Spillane, 25, has 26 tackles in 10 games (one start) this season.

Spillane has tallied 82 tackles, two sacks and one interception in 32 games (eight starts) with the Tennessee Titans (2018) and Steelers.

–Field Level Media