Boomer Esiason threw two touchdown passes to tight end Rodney Holman and picked apart Pittsburgh's league-leading defense with short passes as the previously winless Cincinnati Bengals rallied for a 37-24 NFL victory over the Steelers tonight.
James Brooks, who ran for 133 yards, scored two touchdowns -- one on a 14-yard run with 2:58 left in the first half and another on a 32-yard run with 1:45 left in the game.
The Bengals (1-3) recovered from the Steelers' third-quarter rally, led by Mark Malone, that had turned a 21-10 Pittsburgh deficit into a 24-21 lead in a span of 1:28.
Holman, taking advantage of the Steelers' tight coverage on wide receivers Cris Collinsworth and Eddie Brown, landed scoring passes of 26 and four yards.
With the Steelers (2-2) leading by 24-21 in the fourth quarter, wide receiver Louis Lipps fumbled while attempting to pitch the ball back to Malone on a flea-flicker play, and linebacker Reggie Williams fell on the ball at the Pittsburgh 33.
Esiason scrambled for four yards, then threw a 24-yard completion to Brown for a first down at the Pittsburgh five. A play later, Esiason hit Holman over the middle for what proved to be the deciding score.
Esiason completed 19 of 27 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Cincinnati, which lost all four of its September games in 1984, had taken a 14-7 lead with two touchdowns in a 1:50 span in the second period. After Brooks ran for the Bengals' first score, Esiason, from 26 yards, found Holman open in the end zone with 1:08 left in the half.
After a Pittsburgh field goal cut the Bengals' lead to four points, Brown made it 21-10 with an eight-yard touchdown catch.
"Their defense was really tight and Boomer started to spread the offense out, which really opened things up," said Collinsworth. "Boomer played an amazing game for a guy with not much experience."
"We knew what we needed to do and went out and did it," Esiason said. "We audibled a lot at the line of scrimmage and got some big plays out of it."
Malone completed 26 of 44 passes for a career-high 374 yards but couldn't move his team in the fourth quarter.