The Pittsburgh Steelers had a wild night at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio on Saturday night. Wild actually might be putting it lightly. The Steelers had to overcome injuries, fights, and plenty of penalties in their AFC Wild Card game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The team was able to do so, as they defeated the Bengals 18-16.
The game, which was projected to have a bit of pushing and shoving here and there, turned ugly very quick in the second half. As for the first half, the only points of the game came from kicker Chris Boswell, as he made two field goals from 39 and 30-yards. At halftime, the score had the Steelers leading 6-0. However, the Steelers wouldn’t even come close to blowing out the Bengals, like the Kansas City Chiefs did to the Texans earlier on Saturday.
The Steelers did extend their lead in the third quarter with another Boswell field goal, this time from 34-yards, and a Martavis Bryant touchdown. Earlier this week, Roethlisberger called out Bryant to step up and make big plays for the team. Bryant did that, making quite the acrobatic catch that went from holding the ball on his inner thigh to keeping possession in his hands for the touchdown.
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Bryant’s catch extended the Steelers lead to 15-0 after a failed two-point conversion. Right after the touchdown from Bryant, the drama began to unfold. With less than two minutes left in the third quarter, the Bengals began to march down the field once again. On a pass to running back Giovanni Bernard, linebacker Ryan Shazier laid a massive blow, which was deemed legal since Bernard was considered a runner as he turned around and had two steps in the forward direction.
Bernard went down and a massive cluster fight ensued on the field, which was sparked by Jeremy Hill shouting at four Steelers defenders. The fight was instantly separated by the officials. After Bernard was sent over to the sideline and the two teams were on their separate sides head coach Mike Tomlin threw his challenge flag. The challenge was won by the Steelers, as the ruling on the field confirmed that Shazier had picked up the fumble.
However, the Bengals responded back as they tried to march down the field. However, on a pass attempted for A.J. Green, cornerback Will Allen, who finished the night with three tackles, was flagged for pass interference. That put the Bengals a single yard away from scoring a touchdown, which running back Hill eventually did. Also putting three points on the board was kicker Mike Nugent as he made a 36-yard field goal.
Things started to look more tense for the Steelers whenever quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was taken down by Vontaze Burfict. Roethlisberger landed on his shoulder the wrong way and was carted to the locker room. As he was carted to the locker room, Bengals fans at Paul Brown Stadium threw debris and trash at the quarterback. As Roethlisberger went in for treatment, Landry Jones stepped up to the plate.
For the Bengals, so did A.J. Green. Green helped his rookie quarterback A.J. McCarron in getting down the field. Green then caught a pass from McCarron with 1:38 minutes left in the game. That put the Bengals up 16-15. However, the Steelers, with Jones taking the reins still at quarterback even with Roethlisberger on the sidelines, still had a chance.
However, all hope seemed to have failed for Pittsburgh when Jones threw an interception right to Burfict, who even ran it into the Bengals locker room as to tell fans that the game was potentially over. However, Burfict was wrong, as his running back, Hill, fumbled the ball. Shazier stripped the ball out of his hands and Ross Cockrell was there to recover the ball for the Steelers.
With the Steelers having the ball for potentially the final time, Tomlin elected to put Roethlisberger back into the game. Roethlisberger led the Steelers to the middle of the field when all eruption broke loose. Burfict hit receiver Antonio Brown, who was a defenseless receiver, with a helmet-to-helmet hit. That resulted in a personal foul penalty, which would put the Steelers in field goal range. After discussion, Adam Jones of the Bengals had shoved a referee, which resulted in yet another personal foul penalty. All happened with only :18 seconds left remaining in the game. As for Brown, he got up with help from the medical staff and made his way to the sidelines.
As the Steelers were deep into Bengals territory, they elected to send Boswell out for a field goal attempt. Boswell, in the rain, lined up for a 35-yard field goal. Boswell’s kick ended up being converted, with the rookie totaling his points in the AFC Wild Card game to 12 points. However, the Bengals still got the ball back with :14 seconds left. However, McCarron could not do anything with the ball and the game was ruled over. The final score had the Steelers winning 18-16.
The Steelers will now head to Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado to face the Denver Broncos next weekend in the AFC Divisional match. The Steelers had already beat the Broncos this season on December 20 by a score of 34-27. However, when the Steelers played the Broncos earlier this season, it was Brock Osweiler at quarterback. This time, the Steelers will face veteran quarterback Peyton Manning.
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