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Bengals vs. Steelers: Score, Twitter Reaction as Pittsburgh Clinches AFC North

Published by Bleacher Report on Mon, 29 Dec 2014

After two mediocre seasons in a row, Mike Tomlin has taken the Pittsburgh Steelers back to the top of the AFC North.The Steelers beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-17, in the final game of the 2014 regular season Sunday night, clinching the division title and No. 3 seed in the postseason.Ben Roethlisberger threw for 317 yards and two touchdowns, Antonio Brown had 128 receiving yards and a pair of highlight-reel touchdowns and the defense forced three turnovers. But the victory came at a price.Star running back Le'Veon Bell left the game in the third quarter after suffering a knee injury, leaving his status for Wild Card Weekend in doubt. ESPN Stats and Info illustrated the second-year stud's importance to the Steelers offense:Andy Dalton threw for 244 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in the loss for the Bengals, who couldn't take advantage of three takeaways of their own and now must go on the road as the NFC's first wild-card team.To start the game, Brown, as he has done pretty much all season, provided some fireworks. After the Bengals went three-and-out on their first possession, the electrifying wide receiver took the ensuing punt 71 yards to the house.And he made it look remarkably easy:It didn't take the Bengals long to respond, though. Midway through the first quarter, Dalton dumped the ball off to Giovani Bernard, who sped to the sideline, hurdled a defender and pushed his way into the end zone for a 17-yard score.As ESPN Stats and Info noted, the second-year versatile back clearly enjoys playing his AFC North rivals:The Bengals added a field goal after a botched snap by Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, but the lead wouldn't last long. Pittsburghscored three times in the final eight minutes of the first half, including a 21-yard touchdown from Martavis Bryant after an ugly interception from Dalton.It was a simple screen play, and as ESPN's Scott Brown pointed out, the blocking made it an easy one for the explosive rookie:All was going smoothly for the Steelers until Bell went down about midway through the third quarter.Reggie Nelson went low for a tackle, and his shoulder met Bell's knee just as the latter was planting, resulting in a nasty-looking injury. Pro Football Focus' Tyler Loechner, Rotoworld's Drew Silva and Evan Silva summed up the general feeling toward the injury:Bell went to the locker room and was immediately ruled doubtful to return with a hyper-extended right knee, per NBC's Michele Tafoya:Roethlisberger threw an interception just five plays later, and the Bengals drove 89 yards in the opposite direction, culminating with a five-yard touchdown reception by Jermaine Gresham to cut the deficit to three points.A strange fake-punt decision by Tomlin resulted in an interception for Dane Sanzenbacher on the following possession, and it looked like the Steelers were intent on booking a flight to Indy.But Antwon Blake stripped A.J. Green and recovered the fumble, giving the ball back to Pittsburgh with just under four minutes remaining.The Associated Press' Will Graves noted the importance of Pittsburgh's once-backup cornerbacks:Four plays later, Roethlisberger went to his star on 3rd-and-8, connecting with Brown, who again made a few defenders look silly and broke away for a 63-yard game-clinching touchdown.Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke put it simply, while ESPN Stats and Info gave a look at his final unbelievable stats:With the win, the Steelers will host the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday. Pittsburgh beat its divisional adversary rather handily at Heinz Field in November, but the injury to Bell looms extremely large.For the Bengals, ending a streak of three straight wild-card defeats just got much more difficult. Instead of a having a home game, they must now travel to Indianapolis to take on Andrew Luck and the Colts next Sunday.
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