(Reuters) – Cincinnati blew a playoff opportunity on Sunday with a 30-20 defeat at the hands of division rivals Pittsburgh Steelers that will keep the Bengals from clinching a post-season spot this week.
Needing a win and a Baltimore loss on Monday to secure their spot, the Bengals (9-5) were upended as their three-game winning streak came to an end while the outcome kept the Steelers’ slim playoff hopes alive.
“It’s tough, for sure, because we had everything in front of us,” Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green told reporters after finishing with nine catches and 93 yards.
“We could have had ourselves set up in a great position if we could have come out here and won today. But, at least we have these last two games at home, and with the way we play at home I feel confident that we’re going to win them back in Cincinnati.”
Antonio Brown scored on a 12-yard touchdown pass and a 67-yard punt return in the first quarter, as the Steelers (6-8) scored the first 24 points of the game and led 27-7 at halftime.
Pittsburgh added a field goal in the third quarter before Cincinnati ran off 13 points in the fourth where their rally fell short.
“We’re just trying to show people the guys on this team, the coaches, they still want to play and they have a lot of fight left in them,” Steelers safety Ryan Clark said.
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 191 yards and a score for the Steelers while Andy Dalton tossed 230 yards and two scores for the Bengals.
Roethlisberger broke his single-season team completion record, raising his total to 340. He completed 337 passes in 2009. Roethlisberger also improved his career record against the Bengals to 15-6.
Brown had five catches for 66 yards, giving him 95 receptions for the season. He has two games left in his bid to break the team record of 112 set by Hines Ward in 2012.
Kicker Shaun Suisham booted three field goals for the Steelers, including one from 26 yards in the third quarter that pushed the lead to 30-7.
Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton finished with 230 yards passing, completing 25 of 44 attempts with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green had nine receptions for 93 yards.
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)