Following a trip to the Super Bowl, this isn't the start the 2022 the Cincinnati Bengals envisioned.
Standing behind a revamped offensive line, Joe Burrow committed five turnovers on Sunday, and the Pittsburgh Steelers eked out a wild 23-20 win in overtime.
The Bengals thought they secured the win when Burrow found Ja'Marr Chase in the end zone for a touchdown with 2 seconds remaining in regulation. But the Steelers blocked Evan McPherson's extra-point attempt, and the game went to overtime tied at 20-20.
The score capped a frantic final five minutes of regulation that saw the Bengals fail to score on a previous possession after Chase appeared to score a go-ahead touchdown on a sideline catch that officials ruled was just short of the goal line when Chase stepped out of bounds.
The Bengals declined to challenge the call, and the drive ended on downs when they failed to convert on four plays after securing first-and-goal inside the 1-yard line. The Steelers punted the ball away on the ensuing possession, and there was no doubt about Chase's touchdown at the end of regulation that capped a nine-play, 60-yard drive that ultimately set up overtime.
Both teams then missed field goals in the extra session before Pittsburgh's Chris Boswell converted on a 53-yard kick with 5 seconds remaining in overtime to secure the win and avert the second tie of the NFL's opening Sunday. The Colts and Texans played to a 20-20 tie.
Rough day for Joe Burrow
After holding the Pittsburgh Steelers to a three-and-out on their first possession on Sunday, Cincinnati started its first drive at its own 22-yard line. After a sack, Burrow looked deep to Tyler Boyd down the right sideline on second-and-15. Instead, he found Pittsburgh's Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The All-Pro safety jumped in front of Boyd and intercepted Burrow's pass, then returned it 31 yards untouched into the end zone to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead. It was the first of a slew of turnovers for the Cincinnati quarterback.
The touchdown was the first score on the NFL's first Sunday of the season. The pass was Burrow's first of the new campaign — not exactly how the Bengals drew it up. With the score, Fitzpatrick became the fourth player in NFL history to record a pick-6 in four of his first five NFL seasons, joining Nate Clements, Ken Houston and Deion Jone, according to the NFL.
After the Bengals kicked a field goal on their second possession, Burrow's first-half struggles continued. On a first-and-10 during Cincinnati's ensuing possession, Burrow faced pressure against an all-out Steelers blitz. Linebacker Alex Highsmith got to Burrow first after beating left tackle Jonah Williams. Highsmith knocked the ball free on a strip-sack that defensive tackle Cam Heyward recovered.
— NFL (@NFL) September 11, 2022
Five plays later, the Steelers kicked a field goal to extend their lead to 10-3.
Cincinnati's next possession? You guessed it. Another turnover by Burrow — this one courtesy of reigning defensive player of the year T.J. Watt. On a second-and-14 near midfield, Watt rushed from the right side. Tight end Hayden Hurst chipped Watt before running a route. Burrow looked to Hurst in the flat. Instead, he found Watt, who leapt near the line of scrimmage to snag Burrow's pass for an interception.
Seven plays later, Steelers quarterback Mitchell Trubisky found Najee Harris for a touchdown to extend Pittsburgh's lead to 17-3.
The bleeding didn't stop there. After crossing midfield on their next possession, the Bengals faced first-and-10 at Pittsburgh's 43-yard line. Burrow looked deep down the middle, again to Boyd who was surrounded inside the 20-yard line by three Steelers defenders. This time, cornerback Cameron Sutton came up with the interception at the 15-yard line.
IT IS RAINING TURNOVERS IN CINCINNATI! pic.twitter.com/a2PL0QuEIi
— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) September 11, 2022
It was the third interception and the fourth turnover of the day for Burrow. All arrived before halftime. Fortunately for Cincinnati, this one didn't result in Steelers points.
Burrow's fifth and final turnover of the day arrived courtesy of an interception to Ahkello Witherspoon early in the fourth quarter as Pittsburgh led 20-14.
Meanwhile, a Steelers offense led by first-year quarterback Trubisky failed to pull away and allowed the Bengals to keep things close before they ultimately forced overtime. But in the end, Burrow's turnovers and Pittsburgh's defense was the difference in the game.
Burrow finished completing 33-of-53 passes for 338 yard with two touchdowns, four interceptions and the lost fumble. The new-look Bengals offensive line didn't fix the woes that plagued Cincinnati last season as Burrow took seven sacks.
Trubisky, meanwhile, completed 21-of-38 passes for 194 yards with a single touchdown. The Steelers didn't turn the ball over.
Expectations are high in Cincinnati after Burrow led the Bengals to the Super Bowl in his second NFL season. Armed with a revamped offensive line and some of the game's most explosive offensive weapons in Ja'Marr Chase, Higgins and Joe Mixon, there's plenty of reason to believe that the Bengals will contend once again.
A swarming Steelers defense had other ideas on Sunday.