NFL: Bengals 13, Steelers 10
PITTSBURGH • Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have the Cincinnati Bengals back in the postseason.
Dalton hit Green for a 21-yard pass in the final moments, setting up Josh Brown's 43-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining. That lifted the Bengals over the Pittsburgh Steelers 13-10 on Sunday, sending Cincinnati into the playoffs for a second straight season.
It's the first time since 1981-82 that Cincinnati made the playoffs in consecutive years and the first time not involving a strike season.
Brown missed a 56-yarder earlier in the quarter. He earned a second chance when Reggie Nelson picked off Ben Roethlisberger and returned it to the Pittsburgh 46 with 14 seconds remaining. Andy Dalton found Green down the right sideline, setting up Brown's winner.
Dalton completed 24 of 41 for 278 yards and two interceptions for the Bengals (9-6), who snapped a five-game losing streak to Pittsburgh (7-8). Green caught 10 passes for 116 yards for Cincinnati.
Roethlisberger completed 14 of 28 passes for 220 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, including his costly mistake in the final seconds that ended Pittsburgh's playoff hopes. It marked the second straight week a Roethlisberger pick cost the Steelers: He threw an interception on the second play of overtime in last week's loss at Dallas.
The Steelers needed to win out to play into January, but couldn't manage any momentum against a Cincinnati defense that gave Roethlisberger problems all afternoon. The Bengals sacked Roethlisberger four times and allowed Pittsburgh to complete just 2 of 14 third downs.
Cincinnati wasn't much better, managing all of 14 yards rushing against the NFL's top-ranked defense. But Dalton and Green worked just enough magic.
Pittsburgh did a decent job of keeping Dalton and Green in check, forcing a season-high three turnovers and making a season-high six sacks. But the offense couldn't take advantage.
Still, the Steelers had one last chance when they took over with 44 seconds left. Roethlisberger rolled right and tried to hit Mike Wallace down the sideline. The ball sailed over Wallace's head and into the arms of Nelson, who had dropped an earlier pick.
It was just enough time for Dalton and Green to get together one last time and help Cincinnati take one more step away from its mediocre past.
The Steelers, meanwhile, head into next week's season finale trying to avoid their first losing season under coach Mike Tomlin after falling for the fifth time in six games.
Both teams squandered opportunities earlier in the fourth quarter.
The Bengals drove into Pittsburgh territory before stalling at the Steelers 38. Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis sent out Brown to attempt a 56-yard field goal into the tricky Heinz Field winds.
The kick was never close, giving the Steelers premium field position with 3:18 left.
Pittsburgh, however, had its own kicking issues. The Steelers moved to the Cincinnati 36, then brought out Shaun Suisham for a 53-yard attempt that was short all the way.
The Steelers spent the week insisting they play their best when backed into a corner, then spent most of the first half getting pushed around by the Bengals. Roethlisberger, who had been critical of offensive coordinator Todd Haley after the loss to Dallas, struggled getting into a rhythm.
The quarterback had voiced concern over the inability to get the ball to tight end Heath Miller against the Cowboys and tried to make up for it early. Cincinnati was waiting.
Leon Hall stepped in front of a crossing pass to Miller late in the first quarter and sprinted 17 yards for a touchdown to give the Bengals the lead. Pittsburgh, fueled by the return of running back Rashard Mendenhall following a one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, drove deep into Cincinnati territory only to have Suisham shank a 24-yard field goal wide left following a botched snap.
The Bengals eventually went up 10-0 on a 41-yard field goal by Brown late in the second quarter before the Steelers finally found some life. Brown streaked down the sideline for a 60-yard touchdown catch to pull Pittsburgh within 10-7.