Steelers hoping dominant 'MNF' win energizes team

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  • By Jelani Scott NFL.com
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The Pittsburgh Steelers' big win will only count once, but the team believes it's the spark they needed to get back to winning games.

Both the Steelers and Bengals entered Week 4 saddled with 0-3 records and it was the Steelers who came away with a largely one-sided 27-3 victory on "Monday Night Football." A huge confidence boost for a team looking to avoid its first 0-4 start since 2013.

"Man, it feels really good to handle our business, and we did so tonight. Really just with outstanding effort in all three phases. It needs to be a springboard for us as we move forward," coach Mike Tomlin told reporters post-game.

Behind the suffocating play of the defense -- eight sacks, nine tackles for a loss, six passes defensed -- and the efficient play of the offense, led by quarterback Mason Rudolph in his second career start, the Steelers put a beating on their long-time AFC North rival.

Rudolph abused the Bengals' poor coverage with dink-and-dunk passes to running backs James Conner and Jaylen Samuels that allowed the versatile backs to show off their playmaking ability all night. As if the second-year pro's night couldn't get easier, the offensive line also performed well, not allowing a sack or QB hit for the first time this season.

"Unbelievable team win. A lot of leadership in the locker room and guys that know how to win. Guys that have won a lot of games in their careers," said Rudolph, still riding the high of his first "MNF" win. "Our message this week was to stack one and start stacking more. That's the plan moving forward and [we] got a heck of a group of guys that are going to do that."

Conner, who had been trying to establish a groove through the first few weeks, put together his most complete performance: 10 carries for 42 yards and eight catches for 82 yards and a touchdown. Conner's coy outlook on the night -- "We were a team that was thirsty for a win. Simple and plain" -- reflected a more focused team, but his backfield mate's comments spoke more toward the team's surging confidence.

"For us to get that running game going, that means a lot. That's what we do. That's Pittsburgh Steelers. That's what we do. We run the football," said Samuels. "We're a physical, downhill team. So for us to have them runs that we had today, I think that got us back in the groove. We're just looking forward to build on it next week."

After not generating any offense in Week 3, Samuels had an impactful 10-carry, 26-yard night on the ground and five receptions for 57 yards and a score. But it was his passing game that brought a dimension to the Steelers' offense no one saw coming: his 3-of-3, 21-yard night made him only the second non-QB in the last 40 years w/ 3-plus completions and 80-plus scrimmage yards in a game, per NFL Research.

Monday night will go down as an isolated moment for the Steelers as the long season continues, but the hope for Tomlin and his crew going forward is that Week 4 will be the turning point that leads to a successful season.

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