The Cincinnati Bengals added a win to the series against the Pittsburgh Steelers in week three when they took advantage of the absence of T. J. Watt. Overall, the Steelers are 67-37 ahead and lead 32-20 in Cincinnati as they seek a hat trick of wins in Paul Brown Stadium this weekend.
The history between the teams show that in the post Terry Bradshaw days of the early eighties the teams were evenly matched.
1983 was the beginning of the post-Bradshaw era when Cliff Stoudt became the Steelers starting quarterback. Bradshaw had surgery on a torn muscle in his throwing arm, so Stoudt got the chance to take to the field.
Drafted in 1977, he set an NFL record that most players would want to forget. Stoudt spent the first 56 games of his career without appearing in a game.
He became the butt of many jokes. When he volunteered himself to the Guinness Book of World records, they rejected his entry claiming they had too many Cliff Stoudt jokes.
Before a record crowd of 58,233, in his first game as a starter, he lost the ’83 season opener 14-10 throwing three interceptions although he wasn’t helped by the four fumbles contributed by his teammates.
Stoudt was well aware of the task he faced playing in old Riverfront Stadium where the Steelers had lost four straight. “We’ve played so poorly in Cincinnati. I’ve seen a lot of amazing things while standing on the sidelines,” a reference to his duties as a non-participant.
(3-2) Steelers at (1-4) Bengals October 10, 1983
The Steelers went into the game with an injury hit offense and it showed. Four times the Steelers were called for false starts although Stoudt blamed the problems on the Bengals’ defense who were shouting counts.
With a Bengals’ defense that excelled against the run, the Steelers’ game plan meant a reduced ground game while putting more emphasis onto the arm of Stoudt.
For the Bengals, quarterback Ken Anderson began well, completing five out of five passes for 60 yards. After Steelers’ defensive end Keith Gary jerked him to the ground by the facemask, he left the game with a sprained neck. Gary drew a fifteen-yard penalty and Turk Schonert came on to replace Anderson.
The scoring began after Steelers nose tackle Edmund Nelson hit Rodney Tate with such force the ball popped loose for second year defensive back Rick Woods to collect and return 38 yards for the touchdown.
As the offenses continued to struggle, Gary Anderson kicked a 35-yard field goal to extend the Steelers advantage.
Cincinnati finally put together a drive of 77 yards. Running back Pete Johnson, returning from a four-game suspension, was the catalyst as the Bengals moved the chains. He contributed six carries and one time carried Steelers’ Mike Merriweather five yards, much to the delight of the home fans. Johnson’s final carry was across the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown.
As time expired in the first half, Bennie Cunningham was making a crossing pattern over the middle waiting for Stoudt’s pass. Bengals’ Griffin was watching the quarterback’s eyes and simply stepped in front to collect the pass before racing 41 yards for the touchdown. The score saw the Bengals take a 14-10 lead into the locker room.
The Steelers’ defense picked up in the third quarter, blitzing to great effect as Schonert wilted under the pressure. Schonert was being buried under the constant waves of Steelers defensive players.
The Steelers offense was also finding it difficult to make yards and it was left to the defensive side of the ball to force the win.
In the final period, safety Ron Johnson read Schonert’s intention as the quarterback attempted a pass. Johnson plucked the ball out of the air and returned it 34 yards to put the Steelers back in front.
Cincinnati replied with a drive of 47 yards to put them within field goal range and the chance to tie the game with four minutes remaining. The kick hit the left upright as it veered left.
On the Bengals’ next drive, Steelers’ Harvey Clayton darted in front of Schonert ‘s intended receiver and galloped 70 yards downfield for the score to ensure the win. A Steelers’ victory had been sealed by the defense.
The Pittsburgh Steelers 24 at the Cincinnati Bengals 14
Chuck Noll recognized the contribution of his defense saying, “It’s tough to throw the ball when you are running for your life.” Schonert was sacked seven times and Anderson twice.
“I never dreamed the defense would score three touchdowns,” admitted Jack Ham as the game entered the Steelers’ record book with the three defensive touchdowns.
Steelers number one draft pick Gabe Rivera made one of nine sacks. Two weeks later he was involved in a traffic accident and paralyzed. The Steelers had passed over Dan Marino to select Rivera.
Bengals’ wide receiver Chris Collinsworth gained 83 yards on six catches.
Cliff Stoudt led the team to the playoffs where they were crushed 38-10 by the Raiders. Steeler Nation never took to Stoudt, and he left Pittsburgh to sign with the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL.
When he returned to Pittsburgh with the Stallions to play the Maulers, it was a sell-out. The fans came to boo Stoudt. The Stallions won 30-18 despite Stoudt only completing two of his sixteen attempts.
“I wasn’t afraid to throw interceptions,” Stoudt once acknowledged. “I threw a bunch of them.”