When the Bengals took their first lead of the night with 1:56 to play, and then on the following Steelers offensive play Landry Jones threw a bad interception, most Steelers fans declared the season over.
While the team had all three time outs, it was at least going to be 19-15 Bengals after they ran the ball three times and then kicked a field.
Instead, it was an ending for the ages.
In the span of the final 1:36, the Steelers pulled off one of the most wild miracles a team ever could, getting the benefit of 30 Bengals penalty yards, and Chris Boswell’s 35-yard field goal with 14 seconds left gave the Steelers an 18-16 win that advances them to an AFC Divisional Playoff game next week against the #1 seeded Denver Broncos.
If you missed it, trust me, find a way to watch the replay at some point this week on NFL Network. It was a game that no one will ever soon forget.
The Steelers blew a 15-0 lead in the final quarter, played most of the last quarter without their franchise quarterback, and then in a scene out of the old west, their gunslinger came back in to save the day with the help of some penalties on the Bengals that allowed the Steelers to get into field goal range in the final seconds.
The play that everyone will talk about took place with the Steelers at the Bengals 47-yard line with :22 seconds left.
Ben Roethlisberger threw a pass that went high, intended for Antonio Brown. Bengals bigmouth and cheap shot linebacker Vontaze Burfict drew a huge 15-yard penalty for a cheap shot to the head of a defenseless Brown.
While that would have been enough to get Boswell into range, Adam Jones helped out when he lost his cool in the aftermath, pushing an official and adding another 15 yards to make it a much easier field goal for Boswell, who kicked it down the middle.
All in all, it was a complete breakdown of discipline with the game on the line, and it was a typical Bengal playoff collapse, and one that won’t be soon forgotten.
Back to the Steelers, who you have to credit for finding a way, but also have to be concerned about in regard to how this team is going to able to go toe-to-toe with the Broncos, who will have Peyton Manning under center in Denver.
Brown ended the game with a concussion according to NFL.com, and Big Ben’s shoulder is going to be a major story and what he’s going to be able to do during the week and in Denver Sunday.
On the positive side, the Steelers run game was effective with two backs who many never felt would have much of an impact on this team. Fitzgerald Toussaint had 58 yards rushing and 60 yards receiving and Jordan Todman had 65 yards on the ground.
Those two combined to help the Steelers run for 167 yards, 5.8 yards per carry, and help dominate the game and eventually help the Steelers build a 15-0 lead before the injury to Ben.
That injury took place when Burfict fell on Ben’s shoulder late in the third quarter that sent the QB to the locker room. That’s then the
Bengals and quarterback A.J. McCarron began their comeback.
Jeremy Hill’s one-yard touchdown made it 15-7 one minute into the fourth quarter, and then a Mike Nugent 36-yard field goal with 5:17 to play made it 15-10.
Green’s touchdown gave the Bengals their first lead of the night with 1:56 to play, and when Jones threw a bad pick that Burfict hauled in, it looked like the season was over.
But hold everything.
The Steelers got the ball on Hill’s fumble on the very next play, and Roethlisberger came back in, giving all he had to help the team (even converting a fourth down) to get close enough for Boswell to kick the game-winning field goal.
It was a win that won’t be soon forgotten, and a sweet one considering all the bad blood between the two teams over their recent history.
The Steelers and Broncos will meet in the Divisional round on Sunday, January 17th at 4:40pm.
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