Steelers keep slim playoff hopes alive with win over Bengals
Pittsburgh, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Antonio Brown had a receiving touchdown and returned a punt for a score to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 30- 20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at a windy Heinz Field on Sunday night.
Ben Roethlisberger was extremely efficient despite battling winds with gusts of up to 30 mph, completing 20-of-25 passes for 191 yards, one touchdown and an interception for the Steelers (6-8), who won for the first time since Week 12 to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Le'Veon Bell rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown and also caught five passes for 50 yards in the win.
"We had a great team effort in all three phases. Special teams, offense and defense. We made big plays on special teams, had a turnover on defense and possessed the ball on offense, it was a great team effort," Brown said.
Andy Dalton was 25-for-44 passing for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Marvin Jones caught five passes for 48 yards and a score and Tyler Eifert hauled in three balls for 33 yards and a touchdown for the Bengals (9-5), who will have to wait at least another week to determine their playoff fate.
"We didn't make anything happen. We didn't make any plays, create any opportunity or make any plays early in the football game. We put ourselves behind right away," said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis.
Cincinnati had a chance to claim the AFC North crown with a win or tie and Baltimore loss on Monday night. The Bengals also had a chance to claim at least a playoff birth with a win and a Miami loss, but the Dolphins held on for a 24-20 win over the New England Patriots earlier on Sunday.
Giovani Bernard rushed for 33 yards and a score and A.J. Green caught nine passes for 93 yards in the setback.
The wind played a factor early. The Bengals lined up to punt after failing to pick up a first down on 3rd-and-1, but a strong gust of wind sent the ball several feet to Kevin Huber's left before it bounced off his hands. Huber was able to recover the loose ball and was dragged into the end zone, but it was ruled that his forward progress was stopped at the 1-yard line. It took Bell two carries to bust across the goal line for a 7-0 lead with 9:58 remaining.
Pittsburgh forced a short punt into the wind on the ensuing possession and took over at the Cincinnati 47.
After picking up a quick first down, the Steelers stalled and were faced with a 4th-and-4 from the 31. Rather than attempt a 48-yard field goal in the gusty conditions, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin put the ball in his veteran quarterback's hands and Roethlisberger connected with Bell for a 16-yard gain down to the Bengals 15.
After a short gain on first down, Roethlisberger connected with Brown for a 12-yard touchdown. Just under a minute later Brown returned Huber's punt 67- yards for a score to make it 21-0.
Huber was injured on the play after he was on the wrong end of a ferocious Terence Garvin blindside block near midfield. He left the field bleeding from his mouth and was later diagnosed with a fractured jaw, according to the team.
Shaun Suisham added a 25-yard field goal just over five minutes into the second for a 24-0 lead, but Cincinnati responded with a nine-play, 47-yard drive to get on the board.
Brandon Tate returned the kickoff to the Steelers 47 to set the Bengals up with excellent field position. Dalton started things off with a 19-yard completion to A.J. Green. A seven-yard rush from Bernard, followed by a nine-yard completion to green got it down to the Pittsburgh 12.
After Bernard was stopped a yard short on 3rd-and-6, Dalton stretched for a first down. Two plays later, Bernard ran it in for a 1-yard score.
Suisham added a 45-yard field goal through swirling winds with 1:14 left in the first half to make it 27-7 at the break.
After trading turnovers and an empty possession, Suisham booted one through from 26-yard out to put the hosts up 30-7.
Dalton found Eifert for a 1-yard touchdown pass less than a minute into the fourth quarter to cap a 13-play, 63-yard drive that started with just under seven minutes left in the third to make it a two-score game, 30-14.
The Bengals made things interesting later in the fourth when Dalton connected with a wide-open Jones in the left corner of the end zone, but Cincinnati was unable to convert the two-point conversion.
The Steelers took just under 2 1/2 minutes off the clock on their ensuing touch before punting it back to the Bengals with 3:17 remaining, but Dalton's pass on 4th-and-10 fell incomplete 41 seconds later.
Pittsburgh was able to run out the remaining time on the clock out to seal the win.
Roethlisberger completed 12-straight passes to start the game for the first time in his career ... Brown has recorded at least five receptions in every game this season ... Both teams picked up 19 first downs, but Pittsburgh held a slim 31:36-28:24 advantage in the time of possession battle ... Cincinnati cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick late in the fourth quarter after suffering an apparent left leg injury. Linebacker Jayson DiManche left moments later with an apparent left injury.
12/16 01:04:26 ET