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Steelers use now familiar formula in 29-14 victory over Bengals at Heinz Field

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It's a predictable formula, but effective. And the Steelers used it once again in a 29-14 victory over the Bengals at Heinz Field on Sunday

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Perhaps you've seen it before, a reliance on the running game, a stout defense and a frustrating red zone offense that, not to fear, is bailed out by a kicker that has become almost automatic.

If you're referring to the the Steelers 29-14 victory over the Bengals at Heinz Field on Sunday, a win that improved Pittsburgh to 5-2 and pushed its advantage to three games over the nearest competitor in the AFC North Division, you would be correct.

That formula for success has a great deal to do with running back Le'Veon Bell, who rushed for 134 yards on 35 carries and added another 58 yards through the air, as Pittsburgh walked away from Sunday's match-up with a 3-0 record in the AFC North.

In addition to the excellent effort on the ground, the Steelers young and continuously improving defense got more dominant as the game went on, limiting Cincinnati to just 19 yards and recording four sacks in the second half, as it pitched a shutout over the final two periods.

Sure, Pittsburgh's offense, one that preached 30 points a game before the start of the season, has a lot of work to do, as evidenced by the five field goals kicker Chris Boswell recorded in Sunday's game. But, Boswell, a player the Steelers signed to the roster just prior to Week 5 of the 2015 campaign, has proven to be a reliable scoring complement to the offense almost since day one.

Speaking of reliable, what about Bell, who continued to be the main cog in the Steelers offense on Sunday, much like he was over the final seven games of the 2016 regular season, when Pittsburgh went undefeated down the stretch, and into the playoffs, winning nine game in a row, overall.

It appears that the Steelers have found a recipe for success.

Can you deny the platitudes afforded this young and super-fast defense, especially now that it employs some glue, otherwise known as Joe Haden at the cornerback spot opposite Artie Burns?

Haden, a veteran Pittsburgh brought on board just before the start of the season when he and the Browns parted ways after several years, has been a steadying force for a secondary that, in less than two years, has gone from 30th against the pass to number one.

And that relentless pass rush.

I must say, I'm a bit jealous. I watched the first half of Sunday's game from the comfort of my living room, and Pittsburgh's defense was having a dickens of a time getting to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who led a couple of impressive scoring drives that culminated in two touchdown passes and a 14-14 tie.

But as I watched the second half from Lanes 5 and 6 during my 7 p.m. bowling match, I was awed by the speed of outside linebacker Bud Dupree, while he chased after Dalton like he stole his lunch money.

But Dupree was just one of four Steelers who recorded sacks down-the-stretch, as Keith Butler's entire unit took turns stalking Cincinnati's Red Rocket, ultimately leaving him grounded to the tune of just 140 passing yards.

The Steelers have a long way to go as a team, but here they are, almost halfway through 2017, and they have the best record in the AFC.

You can talk about red zone efficiency. You can talk about those ugly losses to Chicago and Jacksonville.

But sooner or later, you have to talk about the Steelers formula for success.

Right now, that formula is working, and the 2017 Steelers look like the team to beat in the AFC.