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Steelers win wild game in Cincinnati 18-16

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In one of the wildest playoff games in team history that featured several injuries to both teams, the ‪Steelers‬ took advantage of a late Cincinnati meltdown to rally past the Bengals 18-16, advancing to the divisional round in the AFC playoffs.

Chris Boswell’s game-winning 35-yard field goal with 14 seconds left—his fourth of the game—was setup by two Cincinnati personal foul penalties in the final seconds to cap the final drive.

Ben Roethlisberger returned to the game after being sidelined with a right shoulder injury and lead the Steelers on the 9 play, 74-yard drive sending Pittsburgh to a rematch with the Denver Broncos in the Divisional Round next Sunday.

This is the Steelers first playoff victory since defeating the New York Jets in the 2010 AFC Championship game.

The final two minutes of the game proved to be the most dramatic. With the Steelers leading 15-10 at the 1:50 mark, A.J. Green leaped up and hauled in a 25-yard pass from AJ McCarron to give the Bengals their first lead of the game. A failed two-point conversion gave the Bengals a 16-15 lead.

On next drive for the Steelers, backup quarterback Landry Jones’ first pass, intended for Markus Wheaton, was intercepted across the middle by Vontaze Burfict.

With the Bengals only needing one first down to run out the clock, Jeremy Hill was stripped by Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier to give the Steelers another chance. Roethlisberger, who left with a shoulder injury earlier in the half after a sack by Burfict, came back into the game. The veteran quarterback converted a fourth down to Antonio Brown on a sharp cut, putting the Steelers in Cincinnati territory. On the next play, Burfict was flagged for unnecessary roughness on an incomplete pass to Brown after the Bengals linebacker knocked the Steelers receiver from the game with a shoulder to the head. After the play, cornerback Adam Jones was then penalized after apparently shoving an official, adding an extra 15 yards to the play.

Boswell then booted the game-winner.

Injuries at key positions played a factor for both teams going into and during the game. With Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams out with an ankle sprain, back-up Fitzgerald Toussaint was given the start for the Steelers and ran for 58 yards on 17 carries. Jordan Todman led the team with 65 rushing yards on 11 carries.

Bengals backup quarterback AJ McCarron made his fourth straight start in place of injured starter Andy Dalton, who broke his thumb against the Steelers back in December. McCarron completed 23 of 41 passes for 212 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

The Bengals lost safety Reggie Nelson, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and running back Giovani Bernard to injuries during the game. In addition to Roethlisberger, the Steelers lost Brown on their final drive.

The first quarter was scoreless with both offenses top threats receiving very little action. Receivers Antonio Brown and AJ Green were held to one catch, both for less than five yards. The Steelers did have a significant advantage in the running game in the first 15 minutes as Toussaint and Todman accounted for 50 yards while Jeremy Hill ran for none.

The Steelers capitalized on a McCarron interception in the middle of the second quarter; however, only produced a 39-yard field goal by Chris Boswell with 2:27 remaining in the first half. Roethlisberger’s 23-yard pass to Brown on an out route was the key play that put the Steelers in field goal range.

With less than two minutes remaining in the half, Wheaton caught a short post route pass up the middle for 24 yards. An unnecessary roughness penalty on Bengals safety Shawn Williams for hitting a defenseless receiver sent the Steelers into the red zone, but the Cincinnati defense forced Boswell to kick a 30-yard field goal. The kick capped a 9-play, 63-yard drive that lasted just over a minute.

Despite Pittsburgh’s 11 first downs to Cincinnati’s two, and outgaining the Bengals by 100 total yards, the Steelers only had a 6-0 lead at halftime.

The Bengals started the third quarter with a much needed 38-yard run by Hill, who ran to the outside and was pushed out of bounds at the Steelers’ 29-yard line. On the next play, however, Steelers defensive tackle Cam Thomas recovered a McCarron fumble after linebacker Jarvis Jones hit the quarterback’s throwing arm.

The Steelers offense stalled out once more deep in Bengals territory and relied on Boswell again to extend their lead to 9-0 on a 34-yard field goal at the 10:13 mark in the third quarter.

On the next possession for the Steelers, their offense used two of their biggest playmakers to score the first touchdown of the game. Brown’s catch and run of 60 yards to the Bengals’ 10-yard line was then followed by a Martavis Bryant turnaround fade route touchdown catch. Bryant maintained possession of the football as he corralled it between his legs with his right hand and then tapped his both his feet in bounds before hurdling over the pylon in tSteelers Martavis Bryanthe right corner of the end zone.

The Bengals began to mount a comeback once the fourth quarter began as Hill had a 1-yard touchdown run up the middle and added a field goal with just over five minutes remaining in the game, making the score 15-10. 

Green’s score with under two minutes left started the late theatrics.

Roethlisberger finished the game 18 for 31 with one touchdown and no interceptions. Brown posted another big game as well with seven catches for 119 yards.

After the game, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin confirmed that Brown suffered a concussion on Burfict’s hit on the Steelers final drive. His status for next week in Denver remains uncertain.

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