Turnovers doom Bengals at Pittsburgh

Turnovers doom Bengals at Pittsburgh 

Posted: 11:50 pm Sunday, December 28th, 2014

By John Boyle

Andy Dalton threw two interceptions and A.J. Green lost a fourth-quarter fumble Sunday night at Pittsburgh as the Cincinnati Bengals came up short in their bid for the first back-to-back division championships in franchise history.

The Steelers converted two of the three turnovers into touchdowns for a 27-17 victory and an AFC North championship at Heinz Field.

The loss forces the Bengals (10-5-1) to settle for a Wild Card berth, sending them on the road to play Indianapolis at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Pittsburgh (11-5) won its first division title since 2010 and will play host to Baltimore at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, but the Steelers may be without running back Le’Veon Bell, who suffered a knee injury on a third-quarter hit by Cincinnati safety Reggie Nelson.

Dalton completed 27 of 38 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns, and he had the Bengals in position for either a game-tying or game-winning score late in the fourth quarter. But Pittsburgh’s stripped Antwon Blake forced and recovered Green’s fumble at the Steelers 30 with 3:51 remaining and Cincinnati trailing by three.

Green stayed down for a long time after the play and did not return.

Three players later, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown with a game-sealing 63-yard touchdown pass.

Pittsburgh needed three plays and 61 seconds to convert the turnover into a touchdown. In the second quarter, it took them just two plays and 48 seconds to turn Brice McCain’s second interception of Dalton into a touchdown, as Martavis Bryant took a screen pass from Roethlisberger and turned it into a 21-yard score.

Roethlisberger was 24 of 38 for 317 yards for two touchdowns and one interception.

Brown, who has been a Bengals killer through the years, had seven catches for 128 yards to go along with a 71-yard punt return for the game’s first touchdown.

It was his third career punt return for a touchdown, with all three coming against the Bengals.

Dalton threw touchdown passes of 17 yards to Giovani Bernard and 5 yards to Jermaine Gresham, while running back Jeremy Hill had 100 yards on 23 carries.

Sunday’s playoff game at Indianapolis will be a rematch from Oct. 19 when the Colts blanked the Bengals 24-0.