The Cincinnati Bengals, encouraged by the New England Patriots' loss earlier in the day, were playing for the No. 2 seed in the AFC on Sunday night. The Pittsburgh Steelers, all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, were playing for pride. As it turned out, that was all the motivation the Steelers needed.
Riding a 21-0 first quarter, the Steelers went on to upset the Bengals, 30-20, on Sunday Night Football and throw a wrench into the postseason plans of their AFC North rivals.
The grit and determination Pittsburgh showed during the upset stems from its quarterback and captain, writes Neal Coolong of Behind the Steel Curtain.
Leadership is the act of getting others to follow one's example. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, for all his faults, and the slings and arrows that usually accompany him, must have had [Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender"] blaring as he took the field during pregame intros...
Roethlisberger was out there for his teammates, for his franchise and for himself. He went out, completed 80 percent of his passes (second time in his career and first since his rookie season he completed 80 percent on 25 or more throws). Outside a poor decision on an interception in the second half, Roethlisberger played flawlessly.
Roethlisberger finished 20-of-25 for 191 yards, one touchdown and one pick.
The Bengals, on the other hand, showcased their tendency to shrink on the primetime sage, writes Josh Kirkendall of Cincy Jungle.
But it wasn't entirely unpredictable. This is the same Bengals squad that shrivels when the lights encapsulate the field and the national audience, who hasn't seen much of what we have over the years, confirms their personal impressions while disputing our own talking points. The Bengals are not unlike the kid in speech class that loses bodily functions when he stands before the podium in prime time. It's too big for them.