Late interception helps Bengals clinch playoff berth

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a playoff berth directly into the Cincinnati Bengals' hands Sunday.

Reggie Nelson's last-minute interception of a Roethlisberger pass set up Josh Brown's 43-yard field goal with four seconds remaining as the Bengals edged the Steelers 13-10 at Heinz Field and clinched a spot in the playoffs.

However, Cincinnati's chance of winning the AFC North title ended when Baltimore beat the New York Giants Sunday, clinching the division title for the Ravens before the Ravens and Bengals meet next Sunday.

The Bengals (9-6) have won six of their last seven games and have qualified for the playoffs in consecutive seasons for just the second time in franchise history, the first time coming in 1981 and 1982.

The Steelers (7-8) were eliminated from playoff contention with their fifth loss in six games.

Nelson returned his interception 10 yards to the Pittsburgh 46 with 14 seconds left. That gave Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton enough time to hit A.J. Green with a 21-yard pass to set up Brown's field goal.

On the pivotal turnover, Roethlisberger had wide receiver Mike Wallace open deep down the right sideline but the pass sailed, and Nelson was there to pick it off.

"My eyes got big, real big, when I saw the ball," Nelson said with a smile. "My job is just to stay deep and make sure they don't hit a big play. You're hoping to maybe make a play in that situation and give the offense a chance to win it."

Roethlisberger gave a terse answer when asked about the game-changing play.

"There is nothing to talk about," he said. "You saw it. I threw it to them."

Both teams were short on long field goal attempts late in the game. Brown missed a 56-yarder with 3:18 remaining, then Pittsburgh's Shaun Suisham missed from 53 yards with 1:47 left.

Brown, though, atoned for his miss by making the game-winning kick.

"It's the best feeling in the world because your buddies are out there working hard all day and it's your chance to make a difference for them," Brown said. "Then to be able to make the kick that puts us into the playoffs makes it even more special."

Dalton threw for 278 yards, but the Bengals failed to score an offensive touchdown. Dalton was also intercepted twice, both times by Cortez Allen, who also forced a fumble.

Dalton has thrown five interceptions and three touchdown passes in December after a November in which he had nine TD passes and no interceptions.

Green had 10 receptions for 116 yards.

The Bengals won despite rushing for just 16 yards on 14 carries. They had averaged 168.2 rushing yards in their previous six games.

Roethlisberger was just 14 of 28 for 220 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

"Obviously, it was not our day and, thus, not our year," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We just did not make enough significant plays at the moments. It sounds like a broken record but it's reality as we sit here. We accept responsibility for it."

Cincinnati used one of the interceptions to open the scoring in the first quarter when Leon Hall returned a pick 17 yards for a touchdown. He credited defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer for putting him in the right position to make the interception.

"He made the right call there and he was making the right calls all day," Hall said. "The Steelers have a heckuva team and we held them to 10 points. That pretty much tells you how great Zim's game plan was today."

Brown's 41-yard field goal with 1:53 left in the first half pushed the Bengals' lead to 10-0 before Pittsburgh's offense finally awoke 44 seconds later. Roethlisberger hit a streaking Antonio Brown down the left sideline for a 60-yard touchdown.

The Steelers tied it at 10-10 on Suisham's 40-yard field goal with 4:01 remaining in the third quarter.

Nonetheless, the Bengals came back to win against the Steelers, their long-time nemesis, who had beaten them in their last five meetings.

"It's a big win for the city of Cincinnati," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "I know (Bengals' fans) think that there's some complex about us and the Steelers but there is no complex. You just have to come and play and win. You play football out here for 60 minutes, their guys against our guys. That's what it comes down to."

NOTES: Pittsburgh tight end Heath Miller suffered a right knee injury late in regulation and did not return. He had three receptions for 45 yards and leads the Steelers with 71 receptions for 816 yards and eight touchdowns. ... Pittsburgh wide receiver Plaxico Burress was inactive for a second straight game as a healthy scratch. He has only one reception for 18 yards since being signed as a free agent on Nov. 20. ... Cincinnati kicker Mike Nugent (calf) missed his third consecutive game and was again replaced by Brown ... The 40th anniversary of "The Immaculate Reception" was commemorated during a halftime ceremony that included Franco Harris, whose catch of a deflective pass gave the Steelers a victory over the Oakland Raiders in an AFC Divisional playoff game, the franchise's first postseason victory.