The Bengal pass rush that only got to Ben Roethlisberger once in a week three matchup was now without defensive end Antwan Odom—out for the season with a town Achilles.
To make matters worse, the key to the resurgent Bengals offense, running back Cedric Benson, only carried the ball seven times because of a hip injury.
There was a laundry list of reasons why the Bengals should not have beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 10. Ultimately, none of them mattered.
The supposedly weak Bengal pass rush produced four sacks, thanks to creative packages from defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, frequently bringing linebackers Rey Maualuga and Brandon Johnson up the middle to free up Jonathan Fanene on the outside for two sacks.
The Bengal secondary answered the proverbial challenge, as well, with cornerbacks Jonathan Joseph, Leon Hall and rookie Morgan Trent working in mostly single coverage to limit Steeler receivers Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward and Mike Wallace to 128 combined yards.
With the Bengal defense maintaining the early advantage on the scoreboard, Cincinnati offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski was able remain conservative in his play calling.
With Benson out with a hip injury, the Bengals rode a steady diet of 15-yard outs to Laveraneus Coles and Chad Ochocinco, screen plays to the wide receivers and outside runs to utilize running back Bernard Scott’s speed.
While the tweaked offensive system only produced 218 total yards on the afternoon, it allowed the Bengals to hold the ball long enough to avoid being dominated in the time of possession battle without Benson to lean on in the running game.
It may not have been the way that they drew it up, and it certainly defied the expert expectations, but the results are that matter.
The Bengals own their destiny in the AFC North. And a few new believers.