What it means: It means the Steelers bounced back from a tough loss to the New Orleans Saints to improve to 6-2, and the Bengals' season is over at 2-6. Pittsburgh needed a big win to keep pace with the Baltimore Ravens (6-2), who own the head-to-head tiebreaker for first place in the AFC North. Cincinnati, a team which was built to win now, gave a good effort but is one of the NFL's biggest disappointments this year.
What I liked: Pittsburgh's efficiency was impressive for three quarters. The Steelers didn't do too much, but made the big plays when they were there. Receiver Mike Wallace caught a 39-yard touchdown on a well-designed trick play from Antwaan Randle El. That put Pittsburgh up 27-7 early in the fourth quarter, which was just enough to hold on. For the Bengals, receiver Terrell Owens continues to put up big numbers. He caught 10 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
What I didn't like: I didn't like lack of urgency the Bengals had to start the game. For a team desperate for a win, to start with a fumble on the opening kickoff and blocked punt after its second drive is inexcusable. The Bengals have had several games where they came out completely flat then tried to make a late push. The NFL is too balanced to try to consistently pull off late-game comebacks. Cincinnati fell short by getting stopped on all four downs near Pittsburgh's end zone. For the Steelers, their fourth-quarter play was horrendous on both sides of the ball, but they survived.
Key injuries: There were plenty of injuries in this physical, AFC North game. The Steelers were banged up along the offensive line as starting tackle Max Starks (neck), guard Chris Kemoeatu (ankle) and center Maurkice Pouncey (lower leg) all left. Pouncey returned to the game and played in the second half. For Cincinnati, starting safety Chris Crocker suffered a calf injury in the second half.
What's next: Coming off a short week, the Steelers have their third prime-time game in a row, against the New England Patriots (6-2) at Heinz Field. It will be a battle of the best teams in the AFC. For the Bengals, it will be a long eight games. Cincinnati must play at the Indianapolis Colts (5-3) in what will be another tough contest. Perhaps the Bengals can build off their second-half effort.