CINCINNATI — Mewelde Moore describes his job in three words.
The running back who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers to play “in case of” injury to starter Willie Parker had his best performance as a fill-in on Sunday, one that could be summed up in only one word.
Moore scored a career-high three touchdowns, and Pittsburgh piled up seven sacks in a 38-10 victory that solidified the Steelers’ hold on first place in the AFC North and left the Cincinnati Bengals wallowing without a win at the bottom of the league.
A running back who knows his place had a lot to do with it.
It appeared he was headed back to a reserve role when Parker returned to practice this week, seemingly healthy after being sidelined for two weeks by a sprained knee. But Parker aggravated the injury while working out, and Moore — signed in the offseason as a free agent from Minnesota — went back to being the center of attention.
Not that he wants it.
“I signed here to do a job, and that’s ‘in case of,”’ said Moore, who ran for 120 yards and caught five passes. “Right now, it’s just an in-case-of deal. I know when Willie’s healthy and ready to roll, I’m going to go back to doing the things that are asked of me.”
On Sunday, the Steelers (5-1) asked a lot of him in an offense known for running the ball no matter who’s in the backfield. Moore ran for a pair of touchdowns and caught a pass for another.
“We didn’t get him to replace Willie,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “We got him to be our scat guy, a guy to catch passes, and that’s what he’s been doing. And he’s been doing a great job of running the ball. When we got him, I was excited because I knew what he could do. He’s just kind of showing everybody what I’ve already known.”
Thousands of Steelers fans in the crowd of 65,860 twirled their yellow Terrible Towels when Moore bounced off a tackler, landed in the end zone on his back after a 2-yard run, then spiked the ball during a 21-point burst in the fourth quarter that finished off the 0-7 Bengals.
Cincinnati had a 15-yard punt, allowed Pittsburgh a season-high seven sacks, and couldn’t get a sack against an offensive line depleted by injuries.
“I’m angry,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “That’s not good. That’s not what professional football is all about. We didn’t protect the quarterback, and when you do that, you’re going to have a hard time getting the ball up and down the field.”
Cincinnati fell to 0-7 for the fifth time since 1991, when Mike Brown took control of the team and the franchise fell into one of the longest stretches of futility in NFL history. Only 18 times since 1991 has a team started a season by losing its first seven games; Cincinnati accounts for five of those.
It’s not likely to get much better soon. Quarterback Carson Palmer stood on the sideline in sweatpants, missing his second straight game and his third overall with an elbow injury. Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for a touchdown, but was sacked seven times and fumbled once.
How bad was it? When Cedric Benson ran 4 yards for Cincinnati’s initial first down of the game with 4:57 left in the first half, Bengals fans gave a standing ovation.
“It’s hard to look up at the scoreboard at the end of the game and see 38-10,” said Fitzpatrick, who went 21-of-35 for 164 yards. “We hung in there pretty good for three quarters, and we thought we had a chance to pull it out.”
Not even close.
Roethlisberger improved to 11-0 in his native state — he’s never lost in Cleveland or Cincinnati. With his separated passing shoulder much better after a bye week, Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes, including a 50-yarder to Nate Washington that started the fourth-quarter scoring spurt.
“It wasn’t easy,” Roethlisberger said. “Those guys brought a lot of different blitzes. I think they blitzed us every play. That’s the way we should play offense. That’s us when we’re really clicking.”