Chuck Noll was trying to become the fifth coach in NFL history to win 200 regular-season games, but the Cincinnati Bengals still have his number.
The Bengals overcame three turnovers with a ball-control offense and a late goal-line stand, holding Noll’s Pittsburgh Steelers without a touchdown for the second time this season for a 16-12 victory Sunday.
It was the second time in three weeks that the Bengals defeated the Steelers and the sixth consecutive time over three seasons. The Bengals haven’t lost in Pittsburgh since 1987 and have won seven of their last 11 visits to Three Rivers Stadium.
“I don’t know why we have so much success against them,” offensive tackle Anthony Munoz said. “I guess it’s because every game against them is a big one and the coaches always seem to come up with a good game plan. Every game we play Pittsburgh, we’re sky high for them.”
The victory gave Cincinnati (7-5) a one-game lead over the Steelers and Houston Oilers in the AFC Central Division.
Pittsburgh fans got plenty of chances to cheer in the final three minutes, but the Steelers failed to score.
Pittsburgh drove to a first-and-goal at the Bengals’ seven, but Bubby Brister threw four consecutive incompletions, the last when he couldn’t hit an open Eric Green on fourth and 12.
“He was open,” Noll said. "(Bubby) overthrew a few people. Bubby didn’t play a good game, it wasn’t one of Bubby’s better games. I don’t know if anybody can stand up and say they played well.”
The Steelers got the ball back once more after Cincinnati, held scoreless in the second half, punted. But rookie Mitchell Price picked off Brister’s pass for Dwight Stone at the Bengals’ seven with 1:17 to play for his first career interception.
“It was a great effort by a defense under siege,” said Bengal Coach Sam Wyche, who is 10-4 against Pittsburgh. “It wasn’t decided by fortune, luck, officiating or the weather. But nothing’s been decided yet in the division.”
Brister, who completed 18 of 40 passes for 234 yards and an interception, said: “It’s not over. If we win the rest of our games, we’re 10-6 and that might be good enough to win the division. But everybody is angry. I’m angry, Chuck’s angry, the whole team’s angry. We had too many opportunities to win.”
A big defensive play also keyed Cincinnati in the first half.
The Bengals sacked Brister in the end zone for a second-quarter safety that made the score 9-6, then drove 63 yards in 12 plays over the next 7:01 after the ensuing free kick.
James Brooks scored from the seven behind Bruce Reimers’ trap block with 30 seconds left for a 16-6 halftime lead.
Jim Breech missed second-half field goals of 34 and 45 yards, but the Bengals’ defense, ranked 26th in the NFL, again held Pittsburgh without a touchdown.
The Bengals won, 27-3, in Cincinnati Nov. 18 and haven’t allowed the Steelers a touchdown in 11 quarters.
Brooks ended a streak of three consecutive 100-yard games against Pittsburgh, but had 81 yards in 20 carries as the Bengals out-rushed Pittsburgh, 165-79.
Boomer Esiason threw only 14 times, completing eight for 165 yards as the Bengals constantly ran the play clock down to two or three seconds before snapping the ball.
“We wanted to take the crowd out of the game,” Esiason said. “We wanted to be methodical. They’re not going to stand there and yell for 45 seconds every play.”
The Steelers’ Gary Anderson, with four field goals, now has 202 in his nine-year career. He has made 49 in a row inside the 35-yard line.
The four-point margin was the first Steelers’ game this season to be decided by fewer than 10 points.