After a stunning ending that included an awful Ben Roethlisberger interception, the Bengals are going to the playoffs as the AFC's No. 6 seed because of a 13-10 win in Pittsburgh. In the big spots, Cincinnati's defense made the difference.
Trying to make some late-game magic, Roethlisberger threw an inexcusable interception with just 14 seconds left. Dalton delivered one of his best throws of the day on the ensuing play, hitting A.J. Green for 21 yards, and Josh Brown sent the Steelers fans home unhappy with a game-winning, 43-yard field goal.
It all happened so fast, but the Steelers' meltdown has been building up for weeks. Their defense played terrific Sunday, giving up just six points. But Big Ben's mistakes were the difference. Leon Hall returned an interception for a touchdown early in the game, and Reggie Nelson picked off Roethlisberger's errant pass late, ensuring Pittsburgh wouldn't go to the playoffs.
"We should be (in the playoffs) if it wasn't for me," Roethlisberger said, via Will Graves of The Associated Press.
In between Big Ben's picks, Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins absolutely dominated with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. This game wasn't about Dalton or Green. It was about the Cincinnati defense showing it could win an old-school AFC North battle.
No matter what else happens for the Bengals in the next few weeks, this was a huge step forward for the franchise.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.