Taking a pass on running

The Steelers threw the ball so well again against the Bengals that the postgame questions from the media included multiple inquiries as to whether they really needed to run it.

After second-half comebacks in Baltimore and Dallas and a blasting of Cincinnati such questions seemed legitimate, despite football's time-honored tradition that championship-caliber teams must run and stop the run.

"I think you have to be able to do it when you need to do it," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said after the Steelers rushed for 44 yards but threw for 333 in Sunday afternoon's 36-10 victory over the Bengals at Heinz Field. "Obviously, we didn't run the ball well but we did other things well. We put points on the board. We scored when we needed to score. We converted when we had to do that.

Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 10 game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field

"We shouldn't get so caught up in yards per carry or total yards rushing or things like that because it really comes down to winning football games first, which we did, and everything kind of falls into place from there."

The Steelers rushed for over 100 yards in each of their first five games but haven't hit triple figures on the ground since.

The victory over the Bengals was the Steelers' third consecutive win achieved despite failing to rush for even 50 yards.

They've also allowed 548 yards on the ground over those last three games.

And yet they're 9-0.

"We're a balanced group," head coach Mike Tomlin insisted. "We can give it to you however you want it. If you want to pack the line of scrimmage, we're going to throw it. You play two high safeties, we're capable of running it.

"We want to be able to move it however we choose, or maybe over-commitments and so forth from the defense dictate. We're OK with that, too."

WELCOME TO THE SHOW, JOE: The reputation and brief-but-impressive NFL resume of Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow preceded him to Heinz Field.

Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt said it was the Steelers' intention to leave an impression on Burrow as well as beat the Bengals.

"I think it's very important to welcome quarterbacks in the AFC North (Division) in an appropriate way," Watt maintained. "Scoring points like that, holding the offense the way we did, we try to do that to the best of our ability.

"We know what Joe Burrow is, their franchise quarterback, and we're just trying to let him know what he can expect when he comes to Pittsburgh."

Burrow completed a respectable 21 of 40 passes for 213 yards, threw for a touchdown and wasn't intercepted.

But he was also sacked four times and the offense he directed went 0-for-13 converting third downs.

Cornerback Joe Haden acknowledged a "respect factor," and the need to send a message.

"Joe Burrow is a great young quarterback and we know he's going to be in the division for a very long time so we kind of wanted to set the tone with him," Haden said. "They believe in him and they have every right, but we just wanted to make sure we put pressure on him and never let him get comfortable."

MESSAGE RECEIVED: The Steelers' performance suggested they've taken to heart the emphasis Tomlin has placed since the beginning of training camp on the need to be able to adapt and react to whatever virus-related circumstances arise.

Roethlisberger and inside linebacker Vince Williams, among others, didn't practice all week.

Tight end Vance McDonald and rookie offensive lineman Kevin Dotson weren't available to play.

Assistant offensive line coach Adrian Klemm couldn't coach.

But as Watt put it, "The train keeps rolling."

It was the type of collective response Tomlin had been trying to mentally prepare his team to deliver when necessary all along.

"I was hopeful," Tomlin said of setting such a standard. "Those were my intentions. None of us have a crystal ball but I've been around long enough to know this season was going to lack fluidity at some times, and there were going to be challenges.

"That's just prudent business to work to get out in front of it or at least shape the group's mentality in terms of dealing with it."

SHARE THE WEALTH: Roethlisberger spread the ball around, seemingly at will at times, and had a blast doing so.

Wide receiver Chase Claypool caught two of Roethlisberger's four touchdown passes.

Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster led the Steelers in targets (13) and receptions (nine).

Wide receiver Diontae Johnson had six catches, 116 yards and a touchdown reception in the first half and didn't catch a pass in the second.

"Yeah, I mean, it's a lot of fun," Roethlisberger said. "I enjoy the group of guys. There was a time when I was yelling to get (wide receiver) James (Washington) in the game. I trust every single one of those guys to make a play when we call their number, and I think they trust me to get them the ball.

"It's really fun because a lot of times people talk about, 'Oh, is there not enough footballs to go around?' I don't sense that at all from any of them. I'm not trying to force anybody the ball. I'm trying to get guys the ball that are going to make plays. Right now that's kind of everybody, so we're just having a lot of fun with it."