PITTSBURGH — Mark Malone's ears were burning before the Pittsburgh quarterback burned the Cincinnati Bengals' secondary in the fourth quarter Sunday.
Malone threw a 12-yard scoring pass to John Stallworth with 5:27 left, then connected with Stallworth on a 45-yard play to set up Gary Anderson's 20-yard field goal with 1:47 remaining, giving the Steelers a 23-20 victory.
Pittsburgh (4-2) maintained a share of the AFC Central lead with Houston. The Bengals (2-4) are in last place.
Malone, who was 18 for 30 for 218 yards, was booed repeatedly in the first half, when some fans chanted "Go Home Malone." The only Three Rivers Stadium banner referring to the strike read: "Malone, Stay on Strike."
"I try to do the job for this organization, the coaching staff and my teammates," Malone said. "I don't care what anyone else thinks. I can't worry about the fans, but they don't make my job any easier."
In the Steelers' two prestrike games, Malone threw five interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 17.2, lowest in the NFL.
Stallworth, who got his 500th career catch last week while playing in the Steelers' final replacement game, finished with 7 catches for 100 yards.
"It's just too bad the 500th catch couldn't have come last week when all of my teammates were here," Stallworth said.
Linebacker Bryan Hinkle also played a key role in the Steelers' comeback from a 14-3 halftime deficit, intercepting two passes from Boomer Esiason. The Bengals, who mismanaged the clock in their 27-26 prestrike loss to the San Francisco 49ers, again fell a few yards and a few seconds short.
The Bengals, after wasting an 11-point lead, drove to the Steelers' 18 in the closing seconds, but couldn't get their field-goal team set in time for a potential game-tying kick by Jim Breech.
Against the 49ers, the Bengals failed to run out the clock in the final minute.
"It's very devastating, to keep losing like this," said Esiason, who completed 20 of 32 passes for 303 yards. "This is the second time this happened to us in a row."
Cincinnati Coach Sam Wyche said the Bengals were trying to get the ball out of bounds when Esiason threw 15 yards to Mike Martin on what proved the game's final play.
"Their defense kept us from getting out of bounds," Wyche said.
The crowd of 53,692 was nearly 20,000 more than the Steelers attracted for their only home replacement game last week. There were 5,308 no-shows Sunday.