The air seemed to go out of the Steelers once Le’Veon Bell exited the game in the second half. Immediately after that, Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception that was in part caused by Bell’s replacement poorly blocking a pass rusher that put pressure on Roethlisberger.
The Bengals had the ball trailing 20-17 with a good chance to at least tie when A.J. Green caught a pass over the middle and was stripped and recovered by Antwon Blake. A 63-yard game-sealing touchdown reception by Antonio Brown followed and Pittsburgh walks away with the AFC North title and a game against the sixth-seed Ravens next Saturday in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers won their game at home against the Ravens easily this season. It was part of that two-week span that Ben Roethlisberger threw a total of 12 touchdown passes. Of course, it helped then that Pittsburgh’s offense had Le’Veon Bell, who is able to turn dump passes into 12-yard gains. The Ravens haven’t played great in recent weeks and got into the playoffs because of luck and playing a team starting Connor Shaw in Week 17, though they will get the services of Haloti Ngata returning from his four-week suspension.
It’s still possible that Bell’s injury is only a contusion and he can play. As of now, the Steelers are only saying that it’s a hyperextension. After the game, Mike Tomlin exchanged words with Reggie Nelson, the safety who made the hit on Bell that made the running back leave the game, though Tomlin didn’t elaborate on the comments in his postgame presser. He later told a reporter that Nelson was chirping at him.