The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Cincinnati Bengals on a last second field goal by Chris Boswell and they will now play the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional Round next week.
The Steelers marched down the field with injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and two personal foul penalties by the Bengals on linebacker Vontaze Burfict and cornerback Adam Jones set up Boswell for the eventual game-winning kick with 18 seconds left in regulation.
A late fumble by Jeremy Hill gave the Pittsburgh Steelers one last chance to advance in the AFC Playoffs, and they did just that as Ben Roethlisberger shook off a shoulder injury to lead the Steelers down the field as Chris Boswell booted a 35-yard field goal to cap off the 18-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Roethlisberger, who injured his right shoulder on a sack by Vontaze Burfict early in the fourth quarter, sat out two drives and watched as Landry Jones threw a nearly-crippling interception to Burfict late in the fourth quarter, but much like last week against Cleveland, the Steelers defense came through in a big way once again.
Hill fumbled just before going to the ground thanks to a great play by Ryan Shazier, giving the Steelers the ball back just when their hopes and dreams of moving on seemed all but shattered.
That’s when Roethlisberger made a triumphant return to the field to lead the Steelers into scoring position, backed by two horrendous penalties by Burfict (unnecessary roughness) and Adam Jones (unsportsmanlike conduct) which pushed the Steelers 30 yards down the field and into easy field goal range for Boswell.
Prior to the crazy final six minutes of game play, the Steelers and Bengals offenses struggled to get going due to rainy conditions, which hindered the strong passing attack of the Steelers, forcing backup running backs Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman to carry the load in the running game.
They didn’t disappoint.
Fitzgerald — making his first career NFL start — rushed for 58 yards on 17 carries and added 60 yards receiving on four catches. Todman rushed for a game-high 65 yards on 11 carries, providing the Steelers with a significant spark in the running game, which made up for the lack of success through the air early on.
Fortunately for Pittsburgh, the offense was able to get the passing game going late in the first half as Antonio Brownand Markus Wheaton found some space in the middle of the field and on the boundary, allowing the Steelers to move the ball down the field right before halftime, settling for a 39-yard field goal from Boswell for a 3-0 lead.
Boswell added a 30-yard field goal with 33 seconds left in the half to give Pittsburgh a 6-0 lead at the break.
From there, the Bengals came out of the half and started to finally move the ball against an attacking Steelers defense, but a forced fumble by Jarvis Jones off the edge allowed the Steelers to take over in great field position, allowing Boswell to nail a 34-yard field goal to give the Steelers a 9-0 lead that seemed insurmountable.
Following another Bengals punt, Pittsburgh marched 82 yards in six plays, highlighted by a 60-yard catch-and-run by Brown.
Roethlisberger then found Martavis Bryant in the back of the end zone for the score to go up 15-0 on Cincinnati. Bryant made an outstanding tumbling catch in which he pinned the ball against his butt, allowing him to maintain control of the ball.
After a failed two-point conversion by the Steelers, Cincinnati began to drive down the field again, but Giovani Bernard took a huge shot from Shazier after catching a dumpoff from A.J. McCarron. Bernard fumbled the ball, giving the Steelers possession once again.
They didn’t do anything with it, which allowed the Bengals to come right back and punch one into the end zone as Hill found pay-dirt from three yards out to pull within eight, 15-7.
Cincinnati forced a punt from Pittsburgh and then marched 70 yards in 13 plays, receiving a 36-yard field goal from Mike Nugent to narrow the deficit to five, 15-10.
With Roethlisberger in the locker room getting his right shoulder looked at, the Steelers went three-and-out under Jones’ direction, giving the Bengals another chance.
They capitalized as McCarron marched the offense 45 yards in seven plays, capped off by a 25-yard pass to A.J. Green to give the Bengals a 16-15 lead.
Cincinnati’s two-point conversion failed, giving them a one-point lead that they looked to hold onto.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Jones threw a terrible pick to Burfict across the middle, giving the Bengals great field position.
Then came Hill’s mind-blowing fumble on a run play in which the Bengals looked to churn clock and seal the win.
Nine plays and 74 yards later, aided by two huge Bengals penalties, Boswell split the uprights on a 35-yard field goal to give the Steelers an improbable Wild Card win on the road in Cincinnati.
Roethlisberger threw for 229 yards and one touchdown, while Brown added seven receptions for 119 yards before leaving with a concussion off of a dirty hit from Burfict across the middle.
Shazier led the Steelers with 13 tackles in the win.
The Steelers will travel to Denver next week in the AFC Divisional round.