The Cincinnati Bengals entered this game as the best team in the league turning fourth-quarter deficits into victories over the course of the past season-plus. They had seven victories in games in which they trailed in the fourth quarter. And they looked to do it again, taking a one-point lead with just over a minute remaining this evening against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Then Antonio Brown happened.
The Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger robbed Andy Dalton of a game-winning drive with one of their own after they failed to capitalize on two trips inside the red zone earlier in the half. But the team’s offensive stars came up when it mattered most to win back-to-back games for the first time this year and gain crucial ground in the division, now just a half-game back.
But that crucial rally at the end of the game was only made necessary by one by the Bengals first, as mentioned. As a nearly six-minute drive ended with a Chris Boswell field goal to make it 20-14 with 3:32 remaining, the home team went to work.
The defense looked as though it might hold early, quickly getting the Bengals into a third and four, but Dalton converted to C.J. Uzomah, boxing out Cameron Sutton as the dimeback. That would be the only time they would face a third down on the drive.
The three key plays on that drive were a 14-yard defensive pass interference penalty against Artie Burns, who also gave up an easy touchdown to Tyler Boyd at the end of the second quarter, which was followed by a 16-yard reception by Boyd two plays later, with a big A.J. Green reception down the seam for 23 yards setting Cincinnati up from the 11. Joe Mixon punched it in two played later from four yards out.
That drive took 2:14 without the Steelers using any of their timeouts. But that also left Roethlisberger with 1:12 to work with and a full slate of timeouts. Yet their drive began much as the Bengals’ did, quickly in a third down situation.
Following a deep incompletion to Justin Hunter on second and two, Roethlisberger eventually found JuJu Smith-Schuster open for 10 yards, out of bounds to stop the clock with 36 seconds remaining. A pair of incompletions, and then another on third down, nearly sabotaged the comeback effort if not for a holding penalty against Dre Kirkpatrick on Brown.
It was back to Smith-Schuster a play later as Roethlisberger found him over the middle for 23 yards. Then on first and 10 from the Bengals’ 31, Brown slid underneath Hunter, using him as a pick to beat a blitz on a screen over the middle of the field.
Roethlisberger found him for the catch-and-run of 31 yards that only ended once he crossed the goal-line for the go-ahead score. It was their third victory of the year, and the first fourth-quarter comeback.
And it got them north of .500 for the first time this season, which now feels very much alive heading into the bye week.