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Steelers Ride Bengals Meltdown To Wild Card Win

Martavis Bryant made the catch of the year in a wildcard victory over the Bengals. Photo from

For anyone who watched the Steelers 18-16 win over the Bengals, in Saturday’s AFC Wild Card matchup, one thing that was obvious was the difference in how each team carried themselves. While the Steelers conducted themselves professionally and played with heart, several members of the Bengals defense were out of control and undisciplined, especially at the end of the game. With about 22 seconds left in the game, and trailing 16-15, the Steelers were trying to drive into range for a game winning field goal. Vontaze Burfict drew a 15 yard penalty for an illegal hit to the head on a defenseless receiver, Antonio Brown, who was laid out on the field with a concussion. Moments later, Adam “Pac-man” Jones drew a 15 yard penalty for a confrontation with linebackers coach Joey Porter, who was on the field helping Brown off of it. The resulting 30 yards off of those penalties put the Steelers in position for Chris Boswell to kick the game winning 35 yard field goal, sending the Steelers on to the Divisional round of the playoffs next Sunday in Denver. Prior to the last few minutes of the game, it had been a somewhat pedestrian affair played in a steady rain.

The Steelers scored the only six points of the first half on two Chris Boswell field goals. by the end of the third quarter they had stretched their lead to 15-0 on a third Boswell field goal and a touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Martavis Bryant, whose reception might be the catch of the year. The fourth quarter is where things got very interesting and very chirpy. The Bengals finally got on the scoreboard with 13:57 left in the fourth quarter, on a Jeremy Hill 1 yard touchdown run to close the score to 15-7, following a pass interference call on Will Allen at the 2 yard line. The Steelers, who had been without Ben Roethlisberger since the end of the third quarter after he was driven to the turf by Vontaze Burfict, couldn’t muster much offense under Landry Jones. Ben’s abscence allowed the Bengals to get back into the game in the fourth quarter. After a Mike Nugent field goal with 5:12 left in the game cut the Steelers lead to 15-10, the stage was set for one of the most improbable endings to any game in recent memory. None of it would have been possible without a missed tackle on 25 yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green with 1:50 left in the game.

If Mike Mitchell makes that tackle, the Bengals have a first and ten at around the three, trailing 15-10. It is conceivable that the Bengals would have run at least another minute off the clock, as well as forcing the Steelers to burn their timeouts to stop the clock, before scoring their touchdown, assuming they scored one. At that point, the Steelers would be trailing 16-15 and getting the ball with about 47 seconds left with no timeouts after the kickoff. As it was, by Mitchell missing that tackle, the Steelers took possession at around the 16 yard line, trailing 16-15, with 1:43 left, following the kickoff. Immediately, Landry Jones threw a pass, intended for Markus Wheaton, that was intercepted by Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, which appeared to be a game ending turnover. One play later though, the Steelers got the ball back when Ross Cockrell recovered a fumble that was forced by Ryan Shazier, when Shazier stripped the ball from running back Jeremy Hill. When the Steelers offense came back on the field, Ben Roethlisberger came back out with them.

With 1:23 left in the game, the Steelers took over on their own 9 yard line, needing to go at least 56 yards to get into Chris Boswell field goal range. One minute later is when the Bengals’ meltdown finally occurred. With 22 seconds left in the game, Ben Roethlisberger tried to hit Antonio Brown downfield, but the pass went high off of Brown’s fingers. Despite the pass being incomplete, Vontaze Burfict decided to throw a shoulder to Brown’s head anyway, and was flagged 15 yards for unnecessary roughness, moving the ball to the Bengals 32. While the Steelers staff was tending to a concussed Antonio brown, linebackers coach Joey Porter came out to help take Brown off the field. Adam “Pac-man” Jones got into a confrontation with Porter and received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which moved the ball 15 yards closer to the Bengals 18 yard line. Once play resumed, Chris Boswell came on to kick a 35 yard field goal to gave the Steelers the 18-16 lead with 18 seconds left. After the following kickoff and a batted down Hail Mary, the Steelers advanced to the Divisional round of the playoffs in Denver next Sunday afternoon, while the Bengals and their fans felt the pain of the biggest choke job in Bengals history.


It’s easy to have sympathy for this broken hearted member of their fanbase, just not those that threw beer at an injured Ben Roethlisberger as he was being carted off the field.

Throughout the game, Vontaze Burfict and Pac-man Jones were borderline out of control, having to be pulled away by refs from confrontations they initiated, along with being warned by head coach Marvin Lewis to settle down. The classless behavior wasn’t just limited to the players, as fans also got into the act. In addition to a can of beer that was thrown at Ben Roethlisberger as he was getting carted off of the field, there were also some water bottles thrown at the Pittsburgh bench during the course of the game. It was a most fitting and satisfying ending to a game for a team like the Steelers, who refused to lower themselves to the standards of their opponents and their classless fan base. Instead, the Steelers went about their business and had some players put on fantastic performances. Led by Chris Boswell and his four field goals, Martavis Bryant’s catch of the year in the endzone, and Ryan Shazier and his 13 tackles and two forced fumbles, the Steelers did everything they needed to do to win this game. Jordan Todman and Fitzgerald Toussaint also were much better than expected, by rushing for a combined 123 yards on 28 carries, while filling in for an injured DeAngelo Williams. Now that the Steelers delivered another postseason lesson in humility, they can now set their sights on a Denver Broncos that will be led by Peyton Manning this time around.

Brian is a Steelers contributor to the Point of Pittsburgh. Born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, he currently lives in Wheatfield, Indiana where he is a steelworker at ArcelorMittal USA. Brian is a blogger/Co-owner of Pittsburgh Sports Forum and

30 Comments on Steelers Ride Bengals Meltdown To Wild Card Win

  1. The refs are partly to blame for the escalation of classless behavior by the two thugs Burfict and Jones. Although the sack of Ben by Burfict was completely legal, Burfict’s persistent taunting and trying to provoke the Steelers on the field and the sideline went without punishment and that is on the refs. Also on Marvin Lewis to a degree. He obviously hasn’t exercised any control over Burfict’s demeanor all season.

    • Did you happen to see the video of the sack from a different angle? I just saw it this morning, where Burfict jammed his knee into Ben’s shoulder. You’re exactly right, Lewis tried to get Burfict to chill out, in front of the refs, and he got worse. The refs should have ejected him long before the hit on Brown. Makes you wonder if they were instructed to let alot of it ride, for ratings and such.

      • Ben fell on his right shoulder which is why he sprained his AC joint. Burfict drove him to the turf but I don’t hold that against him and hopefully our defenders do the same thing when they get to the QB. Gilbert should be ashamed for not giving a better effort on Burfict.

        The Bengals organization needs to take this out of Lewis’ hands and cut Burfict to send a message to Jones and the rest of the team and its fans that classless thuggery is not going to be tolerated.

        • Sorry, didn’t mean to give the impression that I thought the sack itself was dirty, just the post-sack activities of Burfict. It was a clean take down. Burfict should be cut immediately, because he doesn’t deserve the privilege of playing in the NFL. It ain’t fair to a man like Marvin Lewis, to force him to have to tolerate this kind of behavior, especially since no one can seem to reel this guy in.

          • I agree about his post sack antics. Consistent with his overall demeanor. You sacked the quarterback. Just get up and celebrate instead of ripping the ball out of his hands and running up into the tunnel. And why wasn’t that a penalty for excessive celebration? Another example of the refs not controlling this game. Hopefully the league comes down hard on him. Four game suspension is what he deserves.

          • If Burfict doesn’t get at least a four game suspension, then there is something wrong, and the entire discipline policy needs to overhauled.

          • Jamie Barnhart // January 12, 2016 at 10:38 AM //

            We’re so used to seeing choreographed celebrations after TD’s that it feels like the penalty is associated with the TD, but it’s really not. If Gay and Dupree had danced together back where Thomas was down by contact, they would’ve still been assessed the same penalty.

          • So basically, Dupree should have let Gay dance by himself instead of joining him….lol

          • Jamie Barnhart // January 12, 2016 at 10:45 AM //

            Yes, many people have been insulting William G for taking a penalty as a defensive captain, but it was actually Dupree who was at fault for joining him. G didn’t even see Dupree behind him.

          • The whole excessive celebration thing is BS because it is completely subjective. I don’t know what the rule book says but there is no way to objectively quantify what constitutes an excessive celebration. It is up to the official who throws the flag. What if that official got yelled at by the team’s coach the series before and decides this is an opportunity to get back at him? Don’t get me wrong. I despise the celebrations, especially when a team is getting blown out and someone celebrates a first down or garbage-time TD like they just won the Heisman. As long as the player who scores gives spikes the ball or gives it back to the official right away and gets out of bounds, let them celebrate and look like fools all they want.

          • Jamie Barnhart // January 12, 2016 at 11:05 AM //

            Here’s your answer in two parts: we often mistake the call of coordinated or choreographed celebration with “excessive celebratiot”. Excessive celebration is rarely called, and the only time it can be called is when the referee has warned the player to stop his lengthy, legal celebration, and he continues anyway.

          • Jamie Barnhart // January 12, 2016 at 11:11 AM //

            For example, a couple weeks ago, a Steelers player made a huge play and celebrated ad nauseum, but the ref didn’t throw the flag for coordinated celebration until Joey/Jerry Porter joined him in the dancing. Dupree should have learned a lesson from that.

          • They should be able to dance like fools if they want to, just not on the field of play. Give the ball to the official and go do your celebration on the sideline. The whole team can do a choreographed routine on their sideline for all I care. Why should that be a penalty?

          • Jamie Barnhart // January 12, 2016 at 2:40 PM //

            I’m not a big fan of the dancing. I prefer smacking each other and hugging, which are legal, but I can tolerate dancing on the sidelines if you just can’t help yourself. The penalty a couple of weeks occurred when Porter actually came onto the field to join in the dance.

          • Yeah. Don’t get me wrong. I hate the dancing. I prefer humility like that shown by Barry Sanders when he scored. I just don’t think it should be a penalty unless it’s delaying the game or directly taunting an opponent.

          • Jamie Barnhart // January 12, 2016 at 2:48 PM //

            Correction: the Steelers had already been flagged for multi player display by the time Porter joined in. I’m sure he figured they may as well get their money’s worth. Lol

          • Some go way too fat with it, and I definitely respect the “act like you’ve been there before approach, but I also love that un-choreographed show of jubilation from time to time.

          • I didn’t see that, but yeah, that’s going a little too far when a coach comes on the field.

          • Nice!!! I could go for that

          • That’s it, new team rule, if ya didn’t score, stay the hell out of the endzone…lol

          • Jamie Barnhart // January 12, 2016 at 10:41 AM //

            We’re so used to seeing choreographed celebrations after TD’s that it feels like the penalty is associated with the TD, but it’s really not. If William G and Dupree had danced together back where Thomas was down by contact, they would’ve still been assessed the same penalty.
            Funny side note: this comment was sent for moderation because our corner has a non PC last name! So I’m reposting it with his last name shortened to G. Lol!

          • Lol…That’s funny. Even Dupree should have left Willie G. alone to dance with himself.

        • Jamie Barnhart // January 12, 2016 at 10:11 AM //

          There was no penalty after the burfict INT for excessive celebration because leaving the field with the ball you just intercepted is not considered a celebration. It’s perfectly legal, and commonplace. Had the players paused to put on a dance display together, they would’ve been penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, but they don’t penalize simply running off the field.
          His otherwise disgusting behavior got him a three game suspension that will cost him over half million dollars in lost salary, though!

          • I’m going to check, but I do believe they could have been penalized for delay of game, not that it matters now. I still want to know how the Steelers were penalized for excessive celebration on a play were the touchdown was overturned when Cam Thomad was ruled down. How can they be penalized for celebrating a touchdown that was called back?

          • Jamie Barnhart // January 12, 2016 at 10:24 AM //

            Well, it’s unsportsmanlike conduct, a form of taunting. It’s a penalty no matter when it occurs. It’s just like a personal foul. Even if the play is negated by a false start, the personal foul is enforced. The only times they don’t really enforce 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct is when there is an offsetting foul, or at the end of a half.

          • Thanks, I appreciate the explanation

      • Jamie Barnhart // January 12, 2016 at 10:29 AM //

        Did you see that burfict also intentionally stepped on Foster’s foot with his cleat? Of course, Foster yanked his own foot out from under burfict, and then knee jerk kicked at him. Foster was assessed the personal foul. Not sure if the refs saw the initial foul, or just the retaliation. Gonna re-watch the game tonight on NFL network.

        • No, I didn’t notice that. I’ll have to check that out myself. I knew Burfict spit on DeCastro and told him to watch out for his knees, and that Burfict went low on DeCastro when he was pulling, but DeCastro went low and cut him off.

          • Jamie Barnhart // January 12, 2016 at 11:00 AM //

            I wonder if the whole website will explode if I post that Cockrell started Boykin, Gay!
            Sorry, just couldn’t resist. I hate PC.

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