Steelers advance after emotional 18-16 win against Bengals in AFC wild card game

Steelers Jeffrey

Photo used courtesy of: Jeffrey Beall. (CC) Some rights reserved.

Chris Boswell connected on a 35-yard field goal with 14 seconds left  to give the Steelers an 18-16 victory over the Bengals in an AFC wild card game at  Paul Brown Stadium Saturday night.

The Steelers season-sustaining game-winning field goal drive was made possible thanks to second year running back Ryan Shazier, who stripped running back Jeremy Hill of the football, and cornerback Ross Cockrell recovered it at the Pittsburgh nine-yard line with only 1:36 left in the game. One play before that, Landry Jones, who came on in the fourth quarter to take over Roethlisberger who sustained a shoulder injury on a sack by linebacker Vontaze Burfict, was intercepted by Burfict at the Pittsburgh 26-yard line on a pass intended for receiver Markus Wheaton. At that point, it looked like the Steelers season would come to an end, before Shazier jumped up to save the day.

The Steelers controlled most of the action until Roethlisberger’s injury and built a 15-0 lead through three quarters on the strength of three Boswell field goals and a 10-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Martavis Bryant, where the receiver cradled the football on his hamstring as he fell out of bounds.

However, shortly after Roethlisberger left the game, the Bengals marched 46 yards to close to within 15-7 on a drive that was aided greatly by a pass interference penalty on safety Will Allen that set Cincinnati up at the Steelers four yard line.

With Jones in at quarterback, Pittsburgh’s offense only moved the ball a total of 29 yards on its next two possessions, both resulting in punts, while the Bengals added a field goal to make it 15-10.

Adam Jones returned the second punt 24 yards to the Pittsburgh 45 yard line to set the Bengals up in premium field position with just 3:42 left in the game. Quarterback A.J. McCarron, filling in for Andy Dalton since the veteran quarterback broke his thumb against the Steelers on December 13, drove the offense down to the 25-yard line, before he connected with receiver A.J. Green for a 25-yard score to give Cincinnati its first lead of the game at 16-15 (two-point try failed).

After Pittsburgh miraculously got the football back following the Shazier strip, it came down to a fourth and three, where Roethlisberger connected with receiver Antonio Brown for 12 yards to the Cincinnati 47 with only 22 seconds left to keep the season alive. One play later, Roethlisberger tried to find Brown again, and on an incomplete pass, Burfict was penalized 15 yards for hitting Brown in the helmet. While team trainers were attending to Brown, who suffered a concussion on the hit, Jones got into it with Steelers linebackers coach Joey Porter and was penalized 15 yards for making contact with an official while attempting to hit Porter.

Both penalties set the Steelers up in optimal field goal position, and head coach Mike Tomlin elected to send Boswell out for the winning kick.

Next up for the Steelers is a trip to Denver to take on the Broncos next weekend in the divisional round.

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