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12/23/2012 6:19 PM EST
Bengals clinch playoff spot, edge Steelers 13-10
CINCINNATI 13, PITTSBURGH 10

By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- 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 (7-8) for the first time since
2009. Pittsburgh (7-8) was eliminated 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 - and sometimes comical - 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.



The Bengals have been around since 1968. This is the first time
they'll make the postseason in two straight non-strike years.



"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 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.



Roethlisberger tossed a pick - also intended for Wallace - on
the second play of overtime in Dallas last Sunday, allowing the
Cowboys to win it on a field goal. He openly questioned
offensive coordinator Todd Haley's play calling after the loss,
but apologized later and insisted he and Haley were "on the same
page."



Maybe, but the Steelers hardly played like it. The Bengals
sacked Roethlisberger four times and allowed Pittsburgh to
complete just 2 of 14 third downs.



"Not our day and thus, not our year," Pittsburgh coach Mike
Tomlin said. "Just not enough significant plays at the moments.
Sounds like a broken record but reality as we sit here."



Pittsburgh did a decent job of keeping Dalton and Green in
check, posting season highs with three turnovers and six sacks.
The Bengals couldn't run the ball at all, managing just 14 yards
against the NFL's top defense. Still, it wasn't enough for the
Steelers, turning a season that looked so promising before
Election Day into a muddled mess.



Instead of making playoff plans, Pittsburgh needs a victory next
week against Cleveland to avoid the first losing season in
Tomlin's six-year tenure.



Normally it's the Bengals who are playing out the string. Yet
the franchise that served as a punchline for so long is now the
one throwing the punches. Cincinnati never trailed in a place it
rarely wins and allowed the Steelers to make the critical
mistakes.



Well, most of them anyway.



Cincinnati drove into Pittsburgh territory midway through the
fourth quarter with the score tied at 10 before things bogged
down at the Steelers 38. Rather than try to pin reeling
Pittsburgh deep, Lewis sent out Brown to attempt a 56-yard field
goal into the tricky Heinz Field winds.



The kick was never close, giving the Steelers premium field
position with 3:18 left.



"I make decisions to try to win the game today and they kind of
backfired on me a little bit," Lewis said.



Pittsburgh, however, had its own kicking issues. The Steelers
moved to the Cincinnati 36, then brought out Shaun Suisham for a
53-yard attempt that was short all the way.



The Bengals went nowhere, giving Pittsburgh one last shot in
regulation. Rather than run out the clock and play for overtime
with the ball at their own 11 and 44 seconds to go, the Steelers
tried to make something happen.



And they did. For the Bengals. Facing second down at the
Pittsburgh 29, Roethlisberger rolled to his right and tried to
hit Wallace down the sideline. The ball sailed over Wallace's
head and into Nelson's arms.



Two plays later Cincinnati was celebrating a playoff berth that
signaled another step out of its mediocre past.



NOTES: Cincinnati's 14 yards rushing were the second-fewest in
franchise history. The Bengals had 4 yards rushing against
Baltimore in 2000 ... Pittsburgh TE Heath Miller left game in
the fourth quarter with a right knee injury ... Brown is 8 of 9
since taking over for Nugent three weeks ago ... Five of
Pittsburgh's eight losses this season have come by three points
... Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall had 50 yards rushing in his
return after serving a one-game suspension for conduct
detrimental to the team.



---



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