PITTSBURGH – A.J. Green doesn’t really care about the Cincinnati Bengals’ woeful past. The wide receiver wasn’t part of it and hasn’t really taken the time to study it.
The Bengals were bad. End of story. And now they’re good. Beginning of story.
Andy Dalton hit Green for a 21-yard pass in the final minutes to set up Josh Brown’s 43-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to lift the Bengals to a 13-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Cincinnati (9-6) clinched a second straight playoff berth after beating the Steelers for the first time since 2009 and eliminating Pittsburgh from postseason contention.
The only other time the Bengals made the playoffs in consecutive seasons came in 1981-82, six years before Green was born.
This has been our goal coming in at the beginning of the season, Green said. A lot of people talked about we hadn’t been in in back to back seasons in 30 years. I don’t worry about that stuff. I’ve been here two years and we made the playoffs all two years. That’s all we can control.
Shredding the label as erratic losers one improbable victory at a time, the Bengals, their precocious duo of Green and Dalton and their quickly improving defense have Cincinnati in uncharted territory.
I know they just think that there’s some complex; there’s no complex, you’ve just got to come play and win, coach Marvin Lewis said. This group in there has very little history of anything.
Maybe that’s why Bengals aren’t doomed to repeat it.
Brown missed a 56-yarder earlier in the fourth quarter, but earned a second chance when Reggie Nelson picked off Ben Roethlisberger and returned it to the Pittsburgh 46 with 14 seconds remaining. Dalton found Green down the right sideline on the next play, setting up Brown’s winner.
I’ve had some pretty big kicks, but that was a long time ago, said Brown, who is filling in for injured starter Mike Nugent. When you have a chance for the playoffs there’s nothing bigger. It’s a big deal.
Dalton completed 24 of 41 passes for 278 yards and two interceptions for the Bengals, which snapped a five-game losing streak to Pittsburgh. Green caught 10 passes for 116 yards and Cincinnati’s defense next let the Steelers get comfortable.
Roethlisberger completed 14 of 28 passes for 220 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Leon Hall returned the first pick 17 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and Nelson stepped in front of an overthrown Roethlisberger pass in the fourth.
The Steelers needed to win their final two games to make the playoffs. Instead, the team that was 6-3 in early November will spend January at home after falling for the fifth time in its last six games.
We should be (in the playoffs) if it wasn’t for me, Roethlisberger said after throwing his second game-deciding interception in eight days.
His pick in overtime last week helped Dallas to a win.