CINCINNATI -- Jon Kitna had the best game of his career against the Pittsburgh Steelers last year. He followed it with the worst performance of his life.
Kitna threw three interceptions -- two to Lee Flowers -- and lost a fumble while getting sacked, helping the Steelers roll to a 34-7 victory over the winless Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
|Jon Kitna fumbles on a sack by Joey Porter; the Steelers recovered.(AP)|
Pittsburgh's first convincing victory of the season should come with an asterisk, since it came against such a hapless team.
"They did us a favor out there, let's face it," said Flowers, who matched his career total for interceptions. "We don't need to get too high right now. We played well, but at the same time, we were in the right position at the right time.
"Not bad-mouthing Kitna, but I thought he made some bad throws today. It wasn't like we had to make great breaks on the ball."
Kitna inadvertently drew up the blueprint for beating the Steelers last December when he threw 68 times for 411 yards. Pittsburgh went after him this time with a "Steal Curtain" approach: Pressure the quarterback, let him throw it up for grabs and steal it away.
"I've been playing since fifth grade," Kitna said. "I've never played more poorly than I did today. I've never been more disappointed in myself."
Coach Dick LeBeau had joked that if his team won Sunday, he would dive into the Ohio River. Instead, the Bengals went right into the tank once again.
"We're the laughingstock of the league," running back Lorenzo Neal said. "It's embarrassing. It's a disgrace. Teams just look at you with no respect."
The Bengals are 0-6 for the fifth time since 1991, when they started their run as the NFL's worst team. The bye week is coming up, and it would be a good time for general manager Mike Brown to make a change, if he's inclined.
"That is something I don't have to worry about," LeBeau said. "He either will or he won't. That question will be answered for me."
Cincinnati has been outscored 123-17 in the first half this season, setting up one blowout after another. The latest was the worst of them all, and it started with the quarterback.
Flowers' first interception set up a 34-yard field goal by Todd Peterson that made it 10-0 and started a rapid-fire series of turnovers that decided the game.
Flowers had another interception on the Bengals' next possession, leading to Jerome Bettis' 41-yard touchdown run through a huge gap in the Bengals' defense. Bettis ran 21 times for a season-high 109 yards.
Two minutes later, Joey Porter hit Kitna from behind and knocked the ball loose. Casey Hampton, a 320-pound lineman, caught the ball in the air and outran his pursuers for 36 yards, switching the ball to his left hand so he could stiff-arm lineman Matt O'Dwyer and keep going.
Corey Dillon finally caught Hampton from behind at the 7-yard line, and Tommy Maddox threw a touchdown pass for a 24-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
"Our defense played great," Maddox said. "We were able to point points on the board and it snowballed from there."
Kitna was 23-of-35 for 222 yards with five sacks and three interceptions. He made best use of his passing shoulder by hitting Flowers' legs on one of his interception returns.
There was plenty of slapstick by the Bengals' defense as well.
Pittsburgh receivers found huge holes in the secondary, making it easy for Maddox. He had a tougher time finding open receivers when he was slinging passes for the New Jersey Red Dogs of the Arena Football League and the XFL's Los Angeles Xtreme.
In only his second NFL start since 1992, Maddox was 16-of-25 for 216 yards with two interceptions against an Xtremely bad NFL defense. Plaxico Burress had eight catches for 149 yards.
About 20,000 Steelers fans twirled yellow Terrible Towels as Kitna struggled and the visitors coasted.
- The crowd of 63,900 was the fourth-largest in Paul Brown Stadium history.
- Don McCall's 101-yard kickoff return against Minnesota in 1969 is the Steelers record.
- Flowers hadn't intercepted a pass since the fourth game of 2000, a span of 34 games without one.
- Bengals middle linebacker Brian Simmons was limited to playing only passing downs because of a jammed left shoulder.
The Associated Press News Service
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