Final

Bengals 13

(9-6, 6-2 away)

Steelers 10

(7-8, 4-3 home)

Coverage: CBS

1:00 PM ET, December 23, 2012

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA 

1 2 3 4 T
CIN 7 3 0 313
PIT 0 7 3 010

Top Performers

Passing: A. Dalton (CIN) - 278 YDS, 2 INT

Rushing: R. Mendenhall (PIT) - 11 CAR, 50 YDS

Receiving: A. Green (CIN) - 10 REC, 116 YDS

Bengals secure 2nd straight postseason berth on Josh Brown's late FG

ESPN.com news services

PITTSBURGH -- A.J. Green doesn't really care about the Cincinnati Bengals' woeful past. The wide receiver wasn't part of it and hasn't really taken the time to study it.

The Bengals were bad. End of story.

And now they're good. Beginning of story.

Andy Dalton hit Green for a 21-yard pass in the final minutes to set up Josh Brown's 43-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to lift the Bengals to a 13-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Cincinnati (9-6) clinched a second straight playoff berth after beating the Steelers (7-8) for the first time since 2009. Pittsburgh (7-8) was eliminated from postseason contention.

The only other time the Bengals made the playoffs in consecutive seasons came in 1981-82, six years before Green was born.

"This has been our goal coming in at the beginning of the season," Green said. "A lot of people talked about we hadn't been in in back-to-back seasons in 30 years. I don't worry about that stuff. I've been here two years and we made the playoffs all two years. That's all we can control."

Shredding the label as erratic -- and sometimes comical -- losers one improbable victory at a time, the Bengals, their precocious duo of Green and Dalton and their quickly improving defense have Cincinnati in uncharted territory.

The Bengals have been around since 1968. This is the first time they'll make the postseason in two straight non-strike years.

"I know they just think that there's some complex; there's no complex, you've just got to come play and win," coach Marvin Lewis said. "This group in there has very little history of anything."

Maybe that's why the Bengals aren't doomed to repeat it.

Brown missed a 56-yarder earlier in the fourth quarter, but earned a second chance when Reggie Nelson picked off Ben Roethlisberger and returned it to the Pittsburgh 46 with 14 seconds remaining. Dalton found Green down the right sideline on the next play, setting up Brown's winner.

"I've had some pretty big kicks, but that was a long time ago," said Brown, who is filling in for injured starter Mike Nugent. "When you have a chance for the playoffs there's nothing bigger. It's a big deal."

Dalton completed 24 of 41 for 278 yards and two interceptions for the Bengals, which snapped a five-game losing streak to Pittsburgh. Green caught 10 passes for 116 yards and Cincinnati's defense never let the Steelers get comfortable.

Roethlisberger completed 14 of 28 passes for 220 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Leon Hall returned the first pick 17 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and Nelson stepped in front of an overthrown Roethlisberger pass in the fourth.

The Steelers needed to win their final two games to make the playoffs. Instead, the team that was 6-3 in early November will spend January at home after falling for the fifth time in its last six games.

"We should be (in the playoffs) if it wasn't for me," Roethlisberger said after throwing his second game-deciding interception in eight days.

Roethlisberger tossed a pick -- also intended for Wallace -- on the second play of overtime in Dallas last Sunday, allowing the Cowboys to win it on a field goal. He openly questioned offensive coordinator Todd Haley's play calling after the loss, but apologized later and insisted he and Haley were "on the same page."

Maybe, but the Steelers hardly played like it. The Bengals sacked Roethlisberger four times and allowed Pittsburgh to complete just 2 of 14 third downs.

"Not our day and thus, not our year," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. "Just not enough significant plays at the moments. Sounds like a broken record but reality as we sit here."

Pittsburgh did a decent job of keeping Dalton and Green in check, posting season highs with three turnovers and six sacks. The Bengals couldn't run the ball at all, managing just 14 yards against the NFL's top defense. Still, it wasn't enough for the Steelers, turning a season that looked so promising before Election Day into a muddled mess.

Instead of making playoff plans, Pittsburgh needs a victory next week against Cleveland to avoid the first losing season in Tomlin's six-year tenure.

Normally it's the Bengals who are playing out the string. Yet the franchise that served as a punchline for so long is now the one throwing the punches. Cincinnati never trailed in a place it rarely wins and allowed the Steelers to make the critical mistakes.

Well, most of them anyway.

Cincinnati drove into Pittsburgh territory midway through the fourth quarter with the score tied at 10 before things bogged down at the Steelers 38. Rather than try to pin reeling Pittsburgh deep, Lewis sent out Brown to attempt a 56-yard field goal into the tricky Heinz Field winds.

The kick was never close, giving the Steelers premium field position with 3:18 left.

"I made decisions to try to win the game today and they kind of backfired on me a little bit," Lewis said.

Pittsburgh, however, had its own kicking issues. The Steelers moved to the Cincinnati 36, then brought out Shaun Suisham for a 53-yard attempt that was short all the way.

The Bengals went nowhere, giving Pittsburgh one last shot in regulation. Rather than run out the clock and play for overtime with the ball at their own 11 and 44 seconds to go, the Steelers tried to make something happen.

And they did. For the Bengals. Facing second down at the Pittsburgh 29, Roethlisberger rolled to his right and tried to hit Wallace down the sideline. The ball sailed over Wallace's head and into Nelson's arms.

Two plays later Cincinnati was celebrating a playoff berth that signaled another step out of its mediocre past.

Game notes


Cincinnati's 14 yards rushing were the second-fewest in franchise history. The Bengals had 4 yards rushing against Baltimore in 2000. ... Pittsburgh TE Heath Miller left the field in the fourth quarter with what Tomlin said after the game was damage to his medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Miller has been ruled out for the season finale. ... Brown is 8 of 9 since taking over for Nugent three weeks ago. ... Five of Pittsburgh's eight losses this season have come by three points. ... Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall had 50 yards rushing in his return after serving a one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Team Stat Comparison

 
CIN
PIT
1st Downs1615
Passing 1st downs
138
Rushing 1st downs
06
1st downs from penalties
31
3rd down efficiency
4-152-14
4th down efficiency
0-11-1
Total Plays6363
Total Yards267280
Yards per play4.24.4
Total Drives1416
Passing253185
Comp-Att
24-4114-28
Yards per pass
5.45.8
Interceptions thrown
22
Sacks-Yards Lost
6-254-35
Rushing1495
Rushing Attempts
1631
Yards per rush
0.93.1
Red Zone (Made-Att)0-00-0
Penalties7-555-63
Turnovers33
Fumbles lost
11
Interceptions thrown
22
Defensive / Special Teams TDs10
Possession28:1531:45

Passing Leaders

CINC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Dalton24/412786.8026-25
PITC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Roethlisberger14/282207.9124-35

Rushing Leaders

CINCARYDSAVGTDLG
Green-Ellis15140.904
Jones100.000
PITCARYDSAVGTDLG
Mendenhall11504.5020
Dwyer14392.8013

Receiving Leaders

CINRECYDSAVGTDLG
Green1011611.6021
Jones56513.0023
PITRECYDSAVGTDLG
Brown59719.4160
Miller34515.0022

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERCINPIT
cinTD2:23Leon Hall 17 Yard Interception Return (Josh Brown Kick is Good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 6 yds, 1:30
70
SECOND QUARTERCINPIT
cinFG1:57Josh Brown 41 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 6 plays, 19 yds, 1:59
100
pitTD1:18Antonio Brown 60 Yard Pass From Ben Roethlisberger (Shaun Suisham Kick is Good)
Drive info: 2 plays, 73 yds, 0:44
107
THIRD QUARTERCINPIT
pitFG4:05Shaun Suisham 40 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 10 plays, 45 yds, 5:06
1010
FOURTH QUARTERCINPIT
cinFG0:08Josh Brown 43 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 2 plays, 21 yds, 0:06
1310

Research Notes

Ben Roethlisberger had a 7.1 Total QBR in Sunday's loss to Cincinnati, his lowest Total QBR in the last three seasons. Roethlisberger has struggled since returning from injury, posting a 28.7 Total QBR over his last three games.
  [+]
NEXT LEVEL: The Bengals sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times on 24 dropbacks (one every six dropbacks) when sending a standard pass rush Sunday, the most times Big Ben has been sacked against four or fewer pass rushers over the past two seasons. Cincinnati entered the game ranking in the top five in sacks (29) and dropbacks per sack (one every 14.3 dropbacks) sending standard pressure.
NEXT LEVEL: Ben Roethlisberger aired it out with mixed results Sunday, hooking up with Antonio Brown for a 60-yard touchdown while also throwing a season-high two interceptions on throws at least 15 yards downfield. The Steelers have gotten away from dink-and-dunk passing since Roethlisberger's return from injury, as his average pass has been thrown 10.6 yards downfield over his past three games, compared with 7.2 yards downfield his first nine games (fourth-shortest in league prior to injury).
  [+]
NEXT LEVEL: Ben Roethlisberger completed 1-of-8 passes on third down, including an interception returned for a touchdown by Leon Hall in the first half. Big Ben entered the game with a league-leading 90.4 Total QBR on third down, while converting 49.5 percent of his third down passes into first downs, second in the league.
  [+]
Ben Roethlisberger now has 10 career TD passes of 60+ yards, the most in Steelers history. Terry Bradshaw had 9.

ESPN Stats & Information