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Sunday, December 23, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Bengals 13, Steelers 10

By Jamison Hensley

PITTSBURGH -- My thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 13-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers:

What it means: In a defensive battle, the Bengals (9-6) made the last big play to clinch a playoff berth and knock the Steelers out of the postseason. This is the first time since 1981-82 that the Bengals have reached the playoffs in consecutive seasons. If the Ravens lose to the Giants this afternoon, the Bengals would play Baltimore for the division title next Sunday. The Steelers (7-8) lost for the fifth time in six games.

Bengals' defense delivers win: Reggie Nelson picked off Ben Roethlisberger with 14 seconds remaining and the Bengals only needed a 21-yard completion to A.J. Green to set up the winning field goal. Josh Brown's 43-yard field goal in the final seconds sealed Cincinnati's sixth win in seven games. The Bengals' defense stepped up all game. After their offense turned the ball over three times, the Bengals' defense didn't allow a point.

Roethlisberger struggles: For the second straight game, Roethlisberger threw a costly interception that led to a loss. Roethlisberger also threw an interception that was returned for an touchdown in the first quarter. He finished 14-of-28 for 220 yards.

Questionable decision: If you were scratching your head over the Bengals' decision to go for it on fourth-and-22, you must have been really wondering what the Bengals were doing when they attempted a 56-yard field goal with 3:22 left in the fourth quarter. Brown's kick fell way short and kept the game tied at 10. Brown hadn't made one beyond 55 yards since his 2003 rookie season, and this was at Heinz Field, which is known for being unkind to kickers. The Steelers, though, returned the favor. Shaun Suisham was short on a 53-yard field goal attempt with less than two minutes left.

Ike who? Cortez Allen came up big in taking over for Ike Taylor at cornerback. Allen had a hand in three turnovers for a defense that has struggled to force them the past two seasons. He intercepted Andy Dalton twice and forced Green to fumble in Steelers territory. Allen's last interception was an amazing catch of a deflected pass.

Bengals apply pressure: The Bengals' front four sacked Roethlisberger four times, and it always seemed to come at a critical point in the game. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins had 2.5 sacks for a total of 13 this season, which is a monster number for a defensive tackle. Roethlisberger was limping and wincing after a fourth-quarter sack.

Hall stepping up: Bengals cornerback Leon Hall didn't have an interception in the first 13 games of the season. Now, he has one in back-to-back games. Hall jumped in front of Heath Miller at the Pittsburgh 17-yard line and ran it in for a touchdown in the first quarter.

Brown bounces back: The Steelers' Antonio Brown took heat this week for fumbling in the fourth quarter last Sunday in Dallas. But he made the Steelers' biggest play on offense in the first half. Brown beat Adam Jones for a 60-yard touchdown that saved the Steelers from going into halftime trailing 10-0.

Fourth-and-22 call: Not showing any faith in his punter to pin the ball deep, coach Marvin Lewis decided to go for it on fourth down-and-22 at the Steelers' 33-yard line. It would've worked if Green got his second foot inbounds. Still, it gave the Steelers good field position. Pittsburgh went on to kick a field goal that tied the game at 10 in the third quarter.

Polamalu makes impact: For the first time all season, Troy Polamalu looked like Troy Polamalu. In the first half, the Steelers safety broke up a long pass to Green by nailing him in the chest. In the second half, Polamalu perfectly timed a blitz up the middle to sack Dalton.

Bad timing: Suisham had been nearly perfect all season. But a bad snap forced him to kick on the laces, which led to his 24-yard attempt sailing wide left. His second miss of the season occurred in the second quarter with the Steelers trailing 7-0.

Miller injured: Miller had to be carried off the field with 2:12 left in the game after going down with what appeared to be a right knee injury. He has caught a career-high eight touchdowns this season.

What's next: The Bengals finish out the regular season against the Ravens at home, and the Steelers play the Browns at Heinz Field.