And while some questioned the antics of Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict privately, some of the team's cornerstone players came out in support of the maligned defensive players.
"Both guys, they're professional," A.J. Green said, via Cincinnati.com. "They play with their heart on their sleeves. That's the way they play. I would love to have them on my team. I wouldn't want to play against them. I hope we get Pac back. We definitely need him. We've got Vontaze for the next couple years. I love those guys. They play with emotion. They get me hyped. I wouldn't trade them guys for thing."
Hopefully for the embattled Marvin Lewis the rest of his team feels that way. The Bengals head coach has done a masterful job of assembling this roster, especially after scoring on second-chance talent like Jones, and players like Burfict, whose on-field attitude contributed to an epic deflation in draft stock.
But Saturday night was the moment when risk and reward collided. Burfict committed a massive penalty that helped put the Steelers in field goal range. After that play, Jones got into it with Steelers assistant Joey Porter, a former player who was on the field allegedly cursing at Bengals players. That added another personal foul.
And so it goes for a Cincinnati team that was so visibly hungry for their first playoff win under Lewis. The narrative was set for Burfict, who had a brilliant interception late in the game emblematic of his defensive skills. He brought down Ben Roethlisberger to force a crucial fourth-and-30, which is no easy feat, either.
Unfortunately, his teammates and coaches ended up talking risk and reward.