PITTSBURGH, DEC. 2 -- Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Chuck Noll was trying to become the fifth coach to win 200 NFL regular season games, but the Cincinnati Bengals still have his number -- and the AFC Central lead to themselves.

The Bengals won with ball control and a late stand, holding Pittsburgh without a touchdown for the second time in three weeks in a 16-12 victory today.

Cincinnati (7-5), defeating the Steelers a sixth straight time over three seasons, took a one-game division lead over Pittsburgh and Houston, each now 6-6.

Fans twirled their Terrible Towels for the first time in eight years, but couldn't keep the Steelers' offense from digging itself into holes.

Pittsburgh drove to first down at the 7 in the last three minutes. But Bubby Brister threw four straight end zone incompletions, finally missing Eric Green from the 12.

"He was open," Noll said. "{Brister} overthrew a few people today."

A big defensive play keyed the Bengals in the first half. Linebacker James Francis sacked Brister for a safety that made it 9-6, then off the free kick Cincinnati drove 63 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown.

Boomer Esiason threw only 14 times 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. " . . .

They're not going to stand there and yell for 45 seconds every play."