CINCINNATI—No matter how high the stakes, how big the deficit, or how late in the game, Ben Roethlisberger and his tough-to-catch play-makers always find a way to leave the Bengals wondering what just happened.
Chris Boswell kicked a field goal on the final play shortly after Antonio Brown caught a six-yard touchdown pass—taking a hit to the head while landing in the end zone—as the Pittsburgh Steelers pulled off another improbable comeback against the stunned Bengals by rallying for a 23-20 victory last night.
Down 17-0 early, the Steelers (10-2) extended their best start since 2004 in a physical game with a couple of frightening injuries.
Brown's touchdown tied it at 20 with 3:51 to go, with safety George Iloka penalized for hitting him in the head after the catch.
Boswell then won it with 38-yard field goal—his second-straight winner in the closing seconds.
Both teams know the script.
“It sort of reminded me of the playoff game what was it, two years ago?” Steelers' defensive end Cameron Heyward said.
“It's sort of the best reality TV show out there—better than the Kardashians.”
Two years ago, the Steelers came to Paul Brown Stadium and pulled out an improbable 18-16 playoff win set up by Cincinnati's fumble and personal fouls on Vontaze Burfict and Adam “Pacman” Jones.
Boswell won that one with a 35-yard kick with 14 seconds left.
Desperate for a win to salvage their playoff hopes, the Bengals (5-7) still couldn't find a way to beat their Ohio River rival—not even after getting off to the big early lead.
They've dropped six-straight and nine-of-10 against Pittsburgh.
“Very disappointing,” said Bengals' receiver A.J. Green, who had two touchdown catches in the first half.
“We had it.”
Nope. They never do, not against the Steelers.
“We've got a no-blink group,” said coach Mike Tomlin.
“We've been in this situation before, and in this stadium before.”
The hard-hitting game was full of personal fouls, penalties, and injuries that could have a long-term effect, especially for the AFC North leaders.
Pittsburgh lost leading tackler Ryan Shazier to a back injury in the first quarter.
The linebacker was taken off the field on a cart and taken to a hospital for evaluation.
Tomlin had no details about his injury or his prognosis after the game.
ESPN reported Tomlin went to the hospital after the game to check on Shazier.
Then Bengals' linebacker Vontaze Burfict was carted off in the fourth quarter after JuJu Smith-Schuster levelled him with a high hit, then taunted him by walking over him.
There were 11 personal fouls in another acrimonious rematch in their hard-edged series.
The Bengals self-destructed with 13 penalties for a team-record 173 yards.
The Steelers remain tied with New England for best record in the conference. They host the Patriots on Dec. 17.
Bottled up by Cincinnati's aggressive defence in the first half, Pittsburgh's play-makers made the difference down the stretch—just as they have all season.
They rallied to beat the Green Bay Packers 31-28 last Sunday on Boswell's 53-yard field goal on the final play, which was set up by Brown's incredible sideline catch.
After missing practice last week with an injured toe, Brown ran gingerly in pre-game warm-ups and had another big game, finishing with 101 yards in eight catches.
Le'Veon Bell ran for 76 yards and had another 106 yards on five catches, including a 35-yard touchdown play in which he remarkably kept his balance along the sideline (cornerback William Jackson had pulled up, thinking there was no way he could stay inbounds).
It's the first time that Bell and Brown each had 100 yards receiving in the same game.
Ben Roethlisberger was 24-of-40 for 290 yards, with a pair of touchdowns and an interception.