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Bengals lose to Steelers 27-17
CINCINNATI (WKRC) -- The Bengals and Steelers met in the final regular season game of 2014 with home field advantage on the line. The winner claimed the AFC North and would host the Ravens in a playoff game. The loser would head to Indianapolis for a first-round matchup against the Colts.
Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green was active despite a right arm injury. Cornerback Terence Newman was inactive. Pittsburgh was missing safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor.
Both teams were unsuccessful on offense the first time out but the Steelers special teams got on the board with an Antonio Brown 71-yd punt return for a TD and 7-0 lead.
The Bengals answered with a drive deep into Steelers territory but Andy Dalton was picked off by Brice McCain. The ball was intended for Green but the WR stopped his route. Pittsburgh took over inside its own 5-yd line.
The next Bengals possession resulted in points. After picking up 14 on 4th-and-3 pass from Dalton to Brandon Tate, Gio Bernard hauled in a 3rd down shovel pass from a scrambling Dalton and ran 17 yards for the tying score.
A bad snap to Ben Roethlisberger on the ensuing Steelers possession was recovered by Wallace Gilberry at the PIT 34. Early 2nd quarter, Mike Nugent kicked a 39-yd FG, his 15th straight conversion, for a 10-7 lead.
Back-to-back pass plays of 20+ yards from Roethlisberger put the Steelers inside the red zone, but the Bengals defense forced a Shaun Suisham 29-yd FG that tied the game at 10.
A Dalton pass to Green was high and tipped into the arms of McCain for another INT. With the return, the started at the CIN 28. A few plays later Roethlisberger hit Martavis Bryant for a 21-yd catch and run that gave Pittsburgh a 17-10 lead.
The Steelers got the ball back on its own 23 with 2:17 left. They got inside the CIN 10 and Suisham booted a 25-yd FG that hit the upright and went through for a 20-10 halftime lead.
The Bengals started the 2nd half with an 11-play drive but Nugent's streak of 15 straight FG was snapped when his attempt sailed wide right. The Steelers then put together a drive that was thwarted when Reggie Nelson picked off Roethlisberger inside the CIN 20. That took the game into the 4th quarter.
Dalton and the offense put together a 15-play drive that culminated in a 5-yard TD catch by Jermaine Gresham. That made it 20-17 with 11:14 left.
The defense came up with a stop near midfield and then the special teams came up big on a fake punt. Dane Sanzenbacher hauled in an INT and gave Cincinnati the ball on its own 41 with 5:43 left.
With the Bengals driving into FG range, Dalton hit Green for 17 yards. But Green was stripped by Antwon Blake, who recovered at the PIT 30 with 3:51 left.
On the fourth play after the turnover, Roethlisberger connected with Brown, who beat Kirkpatrick for a 63 yard TD. The Steelers went up 27-17 with 2:50 left.
The Bengals will play at Indianapolis in the first round of the playoffs. You can watch the game Sunday at 1 p.m. on Local 12. The Steelers, AFC North champs, will host the Ravens.