PITTSBURGH -- For all their precocious talent, the Cincinnati Bengals are still trying to figure out this "winning-in-December-and-beyond" thing.
The Pittsburgh Steelers provided another important lesson along the way for the burgeoning AFC North power: Be ready or be humbled.
"It's always great when you dictate the game and play ahead and not play catch up," Brown said.
The victory kept Pittsburgh's ever-so faint postseason hopes alive even if simply avoiding the franchise's first losing season in a decade is a considerably more attainable goal.
Andy Dalton completed 25 of 44 for 230 yards and two second-half touchdowns, but Cincinnati (9-5) never recovered after getting staggered early at frigid Heinz Field.
"We didn't make anything happen," Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis said. "We didn't make any plays, create any opportunities."
Looking to move closer to a third straight playoff berth and perhaps grab the inside track on the No. 2 seed in the AFC, the Bengals were undone by a series of miscues on special teams and an offense that didn't get going until it was much too late.
"It's tough, for sure, because we had everything in front of us," Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green said. "We could have had ourselves set up in a great position if we could have come out here and won today. But, at least we have these last two games at home, and with the way we play at home I feel confident that we're going to win them back in Cincinnati."
Cincinnati had more issues on the ensuing kickoff. Officials ruled Cedric Peerman called for a fair catch at the Cincinnati 9, wiping out a lengthy return. The Bengals eventually punted, setting up the Steelers with a short field. Pittsburgh went 47 yards in eight plays, with Roethlisberger buying enough time for Brown to get open for a 12-yard touchdown strike to make it 14-0.
Brown's early work wasn't done. Cincinnati punted yet again and Brown took it 67 yards right up the middle, breaking a tackle at midfield on his way to the second punt return for a score in his four-year career for Pittsburgh's third touchdown of the quarter.
"You get offense and defense rolling, we think we're a real good team," Pittsburgh safety Ike Taylor said. "We've just got to get consistent."
Dalton found Marvin Jones for a 13-yard score on fourth-and-5 with 5:51 to play, but Dalton's 2-point conversion attempt was batted down, keeping the deficit at 10 points.
Cincinnati got the ball back one more time, and Dalton's long heave to A.J. Green on fourth down fell incomplete.
"It was a snowball effect," Cincinnati center Kyle Cook said. "It's tough when you're all bundled up like that to start the game, and then the next thing you know you're down 21-0. So, that makes it tough to get going and come back from that deficit."
NOTES: The crowd of 45,873 was the smallest in the 13-year history of Heinz Field. ... Brown caught five passes for 66 yards and a score and now has 95 receptions on the season, tied for second-most in team history. ... Bengals linebacker James Harrison, making his first appearance in Pittsburgh since leaving the Steelers to sign with Cincinnati in the offseason, left in the first quarter with a concussion.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press