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Steelers vs. Bengals: Where Was This the Past Three Weeks?

The Pittsburgh Steelers snapped their three-game losing streak against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday afternoon, and they did it in dominating fashion in a 34-11 win. The Bengals were on a three-game winning streak with backup quarterback Jake Browning, who assumed the starting role after Joe Burrow went down for the season and were favored before the game began.

The Steelers’ performance begged the question: “Where was this effort the past three weeks?” The Steelers were coming off three losses to Arizona, New England, and Indianapolis, effectively knocking their playoff chances down to almost zero. However, if they had even been able to win two of those games, they would still be in a playoff position.

Mason Rudolph Had His Best Game as a Pro

Mason Rudolph was thrust into the starting role earlier this week after two-and-a-half-weeks of the Mitch Trubisky Experience following starting quarterback Kenny Pickett's injury against the Cardinals. Rudolph was known as little more than an ordinary third-string quarterback, which he still might be, but his performance against the Bengals silenced the doubters for at least one week.

Rudolph went 17/27 for 290 passing yards and two passing touchdowns while leading the offense to 34 points, which is the highest output for the Steelers this season; before the game, the most points the Steelers had scored all season was 26 in Week 2 against the Browns, but 14 of the team's points were scored by the defense. Additionally, his performance came on a day when the rushing attack was decent but not as good as it could have been.

George Pickens Silenced the Media

After last week's game against the Colts, Pickens was the subject of (deserved) criticism for a play where he appeared to put up no effort in blocking for Jaylen Warren. Pickens responded by saying he was trying to prevent an injury, but he was still ridiculed for his lack of effort.

In the game, Pickens had four receptions for 195 yards and two touchdowns, which went for 86 and 66 yards. The 195 yards was a career-high for Pickens, and the game also marked his first multi-touchdown game.

The Defense Showed Up Big-Time

The Steelers’ defense slowed down a Bengals offense that had put up 27+ points in each of their three previous games without Burrow. The defense had three interceptions off of Browning, who could never get comfortable; the picks came courtesy of Eric Rowe, Patrick Peterson, and Alex Highsmith.

The defense sacked Browning three times and hit him eight times, too. Highsmith, T.J. Watt, and Myles Jack each sacked Browning once, while Watt hit Browning four times, Jack hit him twice, and Highsmith and Isaiahh Loudermilk each had one hit.

Does Rudolph Stay the Starter When Pickett Returns From His Injury?

Rudolph had a great game, but Pickett had been playing well before he was injured. The team isn't sure if Pickett will be able to return next week against Seattle or not, but if he is, they certainly have an interesting decision to make.

Regardless of who starts, they will almost certainly have a short leash. If Pickett starts and looks rusty, the team won't have a problem handing the ball to Rudolph, but if the team sticks with Rudolph and he doesn't play well, Pickett will likely start against Baltimore in Week 18. The team still has a 15% chance of making the playoffs, but they will need to win the season's last two games to have any chance.

(Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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