Steelers pull out improbable victory over Bengals, advance in AFC playoffs

The Herd: The Steelers Are Loyal, but Are They Too Loyal?


CINCINNATI (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading to Denver. The Cincinnati Bengals are heading to another long offseason after a meltdown as ugly and ill-timed as it was complete.

Chris Boswell kicked a 35-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining as the Steelers somehow pulled out an 18-16 victory in the AFC wild-card game Saturday night.

Pittsburgh moved into field goal position after a pair of 15-yard penalties on the Bengals, one on linebacker Vontaze Burfict and another on Adam Jones after Burfict hit defenseless Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. Boswell drilled his fourth field goal of the game to give the Steelers their first playoff win since the 2010 AFC championship game.

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The Bengals appeared to be in position for their first postseason win in 25 years before Jeremy Hill's fumble gave Pittsburgh one last shot.

Roethlisberger left with a right shoulder injury on the final play of the third quarter but returned for Pittsburgh's last-gasp drive. Unable to throw with any real authority, he still managed to get the Steelers near midfield with 22 seconds to go when he threw high to Brown in Cincinnati territory.

Burfict, whose sack of Roethlisberger sent the quarterback to the locker room, lowered his shoulder as Brown landed. The volatile linebacker earned a personal foul. Jones compounded the problem when he lost his cool, easily putting Boswell within field goal range after Cincinnati's eighth - and final - flag of an unsightly night.

Roethlisberger finished 18 of 31 for 229 yards and a touchdown in rainy conditions. Jordan Todman and Fitzgerald Toussaint combined for 123 yards rushing filling in for DeAngelo Williams.

Still, it hardly seemed like it would be enough. AJ McCarron put together a late rally after Martavis Bryant's somersaulting touchdown grab gave the Steelers a 15-0 lead heading into the final quarter.

Cincinnati ripped off 16 straight points, the last six on a 25-yard strike from McCarron to A.J. Green that put the Bengals in front. They missed the 2-point conversion.

When Burfict intercepted Landry Jones on Pittsburgh's ensuing possession, Cincinnati and coach Marvin Lewis appeared ready to end the sixth-longest postseason drought in NFL history.

Then, the team that said it would keep it together fell completely apart.

Hill saw the ball pop out as Cincinnati tried to run out the clock and the Steelers recovered at the Pittsburgh 9 with 1:23 left. Just enough time for Roethlisberger - with plenty of help from Cincinnati - to send the Steelers to Denver and a rematch with the Broncos, whom Pittsburgh beat 34-27 on Dec. 20.

Another long winter looms in Cincinnati.

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Steelers pull out improbable victory over Bengals, advance in AFC playoffs
Sergio Brown #38 of the Jacksonville Jaguars takes the field prior to a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at EverBank Field on August 14, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants catches a touchdown in front of Jairus Byrd #31 of the New Orleans Saints during the third quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 20: DeMarco Murray #29 of the Philadelphia Eagles leaps over Brandon Carr #39 of the Dallas Cowboys in the third quarter on September 20, 2014 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 20-10. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 20: Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots scores a touchdown during NFL game action as Aaron Williams #23 of the Buffalo Bills tries to make the tackle at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 20, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Jermaine Kearse #15 of the Seattle Seahawks makes a catch against Malcolm Butler #21 of the New England Patriots in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 30: Taiwan Jones #22 of the Oakland Raiders tries to catch the ball in the endzone while covered by Chris Clemons #29 of the Arizona Cardinals at O.co Coliseum on August 30, 2015 in Oakland, California. The play was called back for a penalty and did not count. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 27: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is tackled by Janoris Jenkins #21 of the St. Louis Rams after making a catch in the first quarter at the Edward Jones Dome on September 27, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 6: Jesse James #81 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is tackled by Darius Butler #20 (not pictured) of the Indianapolis Colts as Mike Adams #29 of the Indianapolis Colts defends in the first quarter of the game at Heinz Field on December 6, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Aller/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 11: Ty Montgomery #88 of the Green Bay Packers does the 'Lambeau Leap' after running in a 31 yard touchdown against the St. Louis Rams in the first quarter at Lambeau Field on October 11, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 18: The Green Bay Packers huddle in the fourth quarter of the 2015 NFC Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on January 18, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 15: The Washington Redskins are introduced before playing the New Orleans Saints at FedExField on November 15, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. The Washington Redskins won, 47-14. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 08: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drops back during a game against the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
DETROIT MI - DECEMBER 3: Richard Rodgers #82 of the Green Bay Packers catches a fourth quarter touchdown to win the game 27-23 over the Detroit Lions on December 3 2015 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 15: Benjamin Watson #82 of the New Orleans Saints scores a touchdown during the third quarter of a game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 15, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 08: Brandon Marshall #15 of the New York Jets attempts to catch a pass under pressure from Telvin Smith #50 and Johnathan Cyprien #37 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 8, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 18: Strong safety David Bruton #30 of the Denver Broncos and tight end Gary Barnidge #82 of the Cleveland Browns fight for a last second throw into the end zone to end the first half at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 18, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 11: Wide receiver Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots dives into the endzone to score on a 59 yard touchdown reception against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of the NFL game at AT&T Stadium on October 11, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots is surrounded by the media after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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