CINCINNATI — Running back Giovani Bernard slipped through the line, caught Andy Dalton’s short pass, then turned and saw something shocking.
One of the NFL’s top defenses had given him a big opening.
The elusive rookie turned the catch into a 27-yard touchdown on Monday night, one of his two scores that made all the difference in the Cincinnati Bengals’ 20-10 victory over the struggling Pittsburgh Steelers.
‘‘I saw green grass,’’ said Bernard, a second-round pick from North Carolina. ‘‘Once you see green grass, you've got to take it. You don’t get many chances like that. When you do, you've got to take it.’’
He wasn’t the only rookie putting their new imprint on an old rivalry. Top pick Tyler Eifert made a 61-yard catch, getting open between cornerback Ike Taylor and safety Ryan Clark, to set up Bernard’s 7-yard run for his first NFL touchdown. Together, they gave a preview of what the Bengals could become with two new pass catchers in the offense.
‘‘Gio’s done a good job,’’ Dalton said. ‘‘We drafted him to be versatile, move around the backfield and make big plays. And that’s exactly what we've gotten out him.’’
The Bengals had 407 yards, holding the ball for more than 35 minutes.
Pittsburgh fell to 0-2 for the first time since 2002, done in by another game of self-destruction on offense. The Steelers had two turnovers in scoring range and couldn’t hold the ball long enough to give their defense a breather, failing to get a first down on seven of their 12 possessions.
The Bengals put the ball in the Dalton’s hands in the first half, letting him pass away while they all but abandoned the run. Dalton had an up-and-down game, finishing 25 of 45 for 280 yards.
The Steelers needed to get their offense moving after a horrid opener. They ran for only 32 yards and Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times during a 16-9 home loss to Tennessee.
Roethlisberger (20 of 37, 251 yards) got Pittsburgh’s offense moving in spurts. He completed all five of his passes on a touchdown drive that pulled the Steelers into a 10-10 tie at halftime, including completions of 19 and 43 yards to Emmanuel Sanders.
Shaun Suisham kicked a 44-yard field goal, and the Steelers had a chance to add to the lead in the first half. But another mistake provided the game’s first turning point.
Pinned at their 3 after a punt, the Steelers drove into scoring position. Roethlisberger completed a 34-yard pass to tight end David Paulson, who fumbled the ball as he was tackled. Adam ‘‘Pacman’’ Jones forced the fumble and recovered it at the Cincinnati 13.