When teams are tempted to take a chance late in a game backed up in their own territory, they might remember what Ben Roethlisberger did on Sunday and run out the clock instead.
There just wasn't much good that was going to come out of Roethlisberger rolling right with about 20 seconds left in a tie game against Cincinnati and the Steelers at their own 29. And when Roethlisberger flung up a pass to Mike Wallace that was overthrown, Cincinnati's Reggie Nelson had an easy interception with 14 seconds left on the clock. One A.J. Green reception later, and the Bengals kicked a game-winning field goal to win 13-10 and clinch a playoff berth at the expense of the Steelers, who were officially eliminated with the loss.
Until the Steelers play another meaningful game, that play-calling sequence will haunt them.
The final minutes of a hard-fought game were filled with questionable decisions, from the Bengals' odd decision to try a 56-yard field goal late, which predictably fell short and gave Pittsburgh good field position, to the Steelers' 53-yard miss which did the same for the Bengals. And yet, when the Bengals punted and Pittsburgh took over at its 11 with 44 seconds left, the Steelers had a pretty easy decision to sit on the ball and play for overtime. Or so it seemed.
The Steelers tried to win in regulation, and it cost them. Roethlisberger's haphazard pass deep to Wallace was a really bad decision by a seasoned, veteran quarterback. The counter-argument is that Roethlisberger was already being put in a bad spot by a coaching staff that was taking a high-risk gamble when it could have taken its chances in overtime. On the other sideline, the Bengals got a huge win against a divisional foe it had to beat. Since the start of last year, Cincinnati was 0-6 against AFC North top dogs Pittsburgh and Baltimore. With this win, the Bengals are going to the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since 1981-82.
The Steelers won't be playing past next week. The offseason will be very long in Pittsburgh.
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