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Bengals keep it close, lose to Steelers 16-13

Points were hard to come by in the season finale, but the Steelers scored three more than the Bengals to seal the victory.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers needed a win in order to stay in playoff contention after losing four of their last five. A Bengals win against the Steelers or a Ravens win against the Browns would have meant the end of the road for the Steelers.

Each team entered the game missing their top wide receivers. Antonio Brown was missing for the Steelers, and it totally changed the look of their offense.

The first quarter was uneventful as neither team could do much on offense. But early in the second quarter, the Bengals struck first thanks to Shawn Williams’ fifth interception of the year.

Thanks to some good blocking, Williams returned the pick 58 yards for the score with 12:37 remaining in the second quarter. Bullock converted the extra point and the Bengals were suddenly up 7-0.

On the next possession for the Bengals, Driskel threw the ball well and kept the chains moving. Driskel was five for six with 50 yards, and a perfect three for three with 35 yard to Alex Erickson. The drive ended in a 49-yard field goal with 2:12 left in the half to extend their lead to 10-0.

Alex Redmond was flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty on the field goal, so the Steelers ended up starting on their own 45-yard line after the kick return. The Bengals did force the Steelers into a fourth-and-one, but gave up a 16-yard reception to Xavier Grimble for the first down.

Thanks to a penalty, the damage was limited to a field goal from Matt McCrane. His 39-yarder was enough to get the Steelers 3 points as the clock expired, with the Bengals leading 10-3 at halftime.

Despite outscoring the offense in the half, the Bengals defense had already reached franchise and league records that no one ever wanted to break. The Bengals set the new record for yards given up in a single season, beating the 1995 squad. With the last-second field goal, the Bengals also broke the NFL record set by the Colts in 2001 for the most points given up in a single quarter after giving up their 203rd second-quarter point this season.

The second quarter was just more of the same, with each team punting in the first three drives. The Steelers finally showed some offense with five minutes left in the quarter with a 47-yard pass to James Washington. James Connor followed that up with a 16-yard run, then JuJu Smith-Schuster followed that up with an 11-yard touchdown pass. With the extra point, the Steelers had just tied the game at 10 apiece with 3:50 left in the third quarter.

The Steelers would extend their run to 13 unanswered points on the next drive. With the help of a fourth conversion, the Steelers made their way down to the Bengals’ 29-yard line where McCrane would make the 47-yard attempt to give the Steelers their first lead of the game with 8:35 left in the game, up 13-10.

On the first play from scrimmage after the field goal, Joe Mixon nearly doubled his total yardage on the day with a 51-yard run. That was the only productive play of the drive, and a Cameron Heyward sack ensured that the drive would end in a field goal. Bullock converted the easy 32-yarder to tie the score at 13 all with 6:17 left in the game.

Ben Roethlisberger was now unleashing his uncanny ability to play his best under the most pressure. He was completing passes all over the field and exploiting the Bengals’ franchise-worst defense to keep the chains moving. The Bengals stopped the Steelers on their own 24-yard line right at the two-minute warning. After the break, McCrane knocked a 35-yard kick through, so the Steelers took the lead again with 1:56 until game over.

The Bengals would then go four-and-out to end the game and ultimately fell 16-13.

Now, the season is over, and the focus turns to who will be head coach of the Bengals in 2019.