Victory! They did it. But... they didn't.
It was that close.
For the first time since Jan. 6, 1991, the Cincinnati Bengals nearly secured their first postseason win in the 9,134 days between victory.
Then everything collapsed.
Cincinnati, who scored 16 fourth-quarter points, taking a 16-15 lead with 1:56 remaining in the game, nearly iced the game when Vontaze Burfict intercepted Landry Jones at the Steelers' 26-yard line.
They were going to do it! It was finally their time.
Whether you sprinted around the house, jumped around Paul Brown Stadium, or locked yourself in your car and shouted "Barbara, we won", you were excited. A 25-year old narrative was facing extinction. Yet, on the very first play during Cincinnati's ensuing possession, Jeremy Hill fumbled the football and Ben Roethlisberger, who exited late in the third quarter with a shoulder injury, returned to the game moments later.
With quick dump-off passes and short-range throws of 8, 7, and 10 yards, even converting a fourth down, the Steelers eventually had first down from the Bengals' 47-yard line with 22 seconds remaining in the game. Roethlisberger launched a fastball over the middle, targeting Antonio Brown. Vontaze Burfict crushed Brown, making contact with his shoulder when officials flagged him for a personal foul. Placekicker Chris Boswell would have faced a difficult kick just under 50 yards. However, Adam Jones was flagged for an additional personal foul, ensuing Boswell's easy 35-yard chip shot and a win for the Steelers.
Marvin Lewis, who is now 0-7 in the postseason, watched as his team lost control in a moment that was supposed to be special.
Cincinnati is out of the playoffs, again. Whether it's the officials or complete recklessness lacking professionalism, blame is irrelevant. The Bengals had the lead with 1:50 remaining and self-destructed, a usual pattern highlighting this frustrating narrative.
The streak continues.