CINCINNATI -- Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returned to the AFC wild-card playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals after exiting earlier with a right shoulder injury and helped Pittsburgh to a last-minute, game-winning drive in an 18-16 victory Saturday night.
Roethlisberger was hurt on a sack by linebacker Vontaze Burfict in the closing seconds of the third quarter but re-entered the game with 1:23 remaining in the fourth, after the Bengals had fumbled. The Steelers proceeded to go on a nine-play, 74-yard drive -- one helped by two 15-yard penalties on Cincinnati -- that was capped by a Chris Boswell 35-yard field goal that sent them on to the AFC divisional round next Sunday at Denver.
Roethlisberger did not want to address the extent of the injury in his postgame news conference, saying "we won the game" when asked what news he received from trainers in the locker room. He's scheduled to have additional exams on Sunday.
Teammates were impressed with Roethlisberger's toughness re-entering the game.
"You've got to salute the man," guard Ramon Foster said. "He's a guy that's proven to be a winner."
Roethlisberger said he was in "a lot" of pain on that final drive. He told coaches he couldn't take any deep shots to the end zone because he couldn't throw the ball that far.
"I'm going to give everything I can," said Roethlisberger about playing in the AFC divisional round on Sunday at Denver.
Offensive guard David DeCastro thought at first Roethlisberger had a sprained AC joint. He hopes it's not that bad.
"It looked pretty bad, to be honest," DeCastro said. "He showed a lot of toughness to come back like that."
After having X-rays on the shoulder, Roethlisberger jogged back onto the field with 5:12 remaining in the game and the Steelers clinging to a 15-10 lead. Backup Landry Jones stayed in on the Steelers' next possession and remained in even after the Bengals took a 16-15 lead with less than two minutes to go.
Jones was intercepted by Burfict, only for Bengals running back Jeremy Hill to fumble on their next possession, leading to Big Ben's return late.
"It was dire," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We kind of looked at each other and kind of said it's now or never."
With Mike Vick inactive, Jones was the only quarterback available for Pittsburgh other than Roethlisberger. Jones had no previous playoff experience but threw for three touchdowns and two interceptions in six quarters of midseason relief work.
Burfict got a free shot at Roethlisberger and capitalized. The quarterback walked off on his own accord but quickly got checked out by trainers and left the game on a cart. He was booed as he left the field.
Burfict's hit came shortly after a scuffle at midfield over the Bengals' disapproval of Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier's hit on running back Gio Bernard. Shazier appeared to lead with his helmet. Bernard was undergoing concussion protocol and was ruled out.
Roethlisberger was 13-of-24 for 189 yards and one touchdown before leaving. He has been injured multiple times this season, missing four games with a sprained MCL and missing a week of practice with a bone bruise on his foot.