Cincinnati — Ben Roethlisberger saw the defensive alignment and knew immediately that the Pittsburgh Steelers had a chance for a winning touchdown. All he had to do was get the ball to Antonio Brown right away.
Brown took a few strides, caught the pass and ran behind Justin Hunter’s block for a 31-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left Sunday and yet another improbable – and entirely predictable – victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers’ 28-21 win made it eight straight and counting over their AFC North rival.
“We’ve been in that situation a lot, and I knew we were going to do it,” Brown said.
They always do.
James Conner ran for 111 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the eve of Le’Veon Bell’s possible return to help the Steelers (3-2-1) get ahead, but they had to pull off their third last-minute rally at Paul Brown Stadium to extend the streak.
Joe Mixon’s 4-yard touchdown run with 1:18 got the Bengals (4-2) thinking they might finally have their breakthrough. Roethlisberger and the Steelers stunned them again.
Big Ben came to the line on the decisive play and saw that the Bengals were set for an all-out blitz with no safeties to guard against a big play. He immediately thought touchdown.
“When you see that look, it’s how fast can I get him the ball,” said Roethlisberger, who is 14-2 in his career at Paul Brown Stadium.
Brown caught the ball in stride, cut and outran the secondary for the winning score, leaving thousands of Steelers fans twirling their towels while stunned Bengals fans stood and watched a familiar ending.
The Bengals are 2-16 against the Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium during coach Marvin Lewis’ 16 seasons, including a pair of playoff losses.
“Imagine how we feel,” Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “I imagine how the fans feel.”
These Ohio River rivalry games are usually nasty, and this one had its moments. After Andy Dalton’s final pass fell complete, several players got into a scuffle in front of the Cincinnati sideline.
After a sloppy September, the Steelers have won two in a row and found their stride behind Conner , who became the featured back when Bell decided to hold out. Conner has run for more than 100 yards in each of the last two games, and his pair of 1-yard touchdown runs Sunday put him in the company of a pair of Steelers Hall of Famers.
Conner has seven rushing touchdowns in six games, joining Franco Harris (1976) and Jerome Bettis (2004) as the only Steelers with that accomplishment.
“James was a bowling ball today,” said Roethlisberger, who joked that it was probably the running back’s final game amid reports that Bell would return.