(Pittsburgh) Mason Rudolph connected with George Pickens for two long touchdowns and the Pittsburgh Steelers kept their playoff hopes alive by defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 34-11 on Saturday.

Rudolph, getting his first start in two years due to Kenny Pickett’s injury and Mitch Trubisky’s ineffectiveness, threw the ball to Pickens on the second play of the game. The receiver completed the play 86 yards into the end zone.

The quarterback found Pickens 66 yards in the third quarter for another major and the Steelers (8-7) ended a three-game losing streak.

Pickens caught four passes for 195 yards. Rudolph completed 17 of 27 passes for 290 yards.

“I feel like it clicked between us,” Rudolph said.

The Steelers had their best offensive game in several years, having not scored 34 points in a victory since 2020. This performance should silence – at least temporarily – the criticism of Pickens, who criticize his sometimes nonchalant play.

“People like to question [our involvement] a lot,” Pickens said. But it just shows you [who we are]. »

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Pickens, 22, needed to work on his maturity but refused to cut him from the lineup. Pickens thanked him with a breakthrough performance.

For a few hours a few days before Christmas, all the negativity surrounding the Steelers that led to speculation about Tomlin’s 17-year stint at the helm of the club disappeared.

The road to the playoffs, however, remains complicated for the Pennsylvania team. The Steelers will have to beat the Seahawks in Seattle next week, and Pickett may be back after right ankle surgery.

Rudolph, who was far down the Steelers’ organizational chart over the past two years, was dynamic and decisive. He does not hide, moreover, that he thinks a lot about his future.

“You have confidence in yourself as a player,” the longtime quarterback said. But I’m kind of wondering, “Am I going to get into commercial real estate next year or am I going to be a quarterback again?” »

Jake Browning threw for 335 yards and a touchdown. However, he suffered three interceptions which the Steelers took advantage of to score points.

The Bengals (8-7) had won their last three games, but this time retreated to the locker room at halftime with a 24-point deficit.

“It’s a humbling league, it’s a humbling day,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said.

Tee Higgins had five catches for 140 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown.