CINCINNATI (AP) — Fans in the upper deck at Paul Brown Stadium hung a banner that read: “Make Them Respect Us.” Instead, the Steelers broke their hearts in the last minute all over again.
The Bengals let yet another one slip away against their AFC North rival, and this one hurt in many familiar ways. Antonio Brown’s 31-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown with 10 seconds left sent Pittsburgh to a 28-21 victorySunday.
It’s seven and a row and counting in a one-sided rivalry that always seems to turn out the Steelers’ way.
“I can’t really explain it,” said receiver Tyler Boyd, who had two touchdown catches .
Whenever they come to Cincinnati, the Steelers (3-2-1) have confidence they can pull another one out no matter how far down, no matter how little time is left. They’ve done it repeatedly during that seven-game winning streak.
When Joe Mixon scored on a four-yard touchdown run with 1:18 to go, the Bengals (4-2) celebrated as though they’d finally gotten that breakthrough win. They should have known better.
“We left enough time on there for them to go down and score,” receiver Alex Erickson said.
The Steelers knocked the Bengals out of the playoffs in 2015 with the help of Vontaze Burfict’s hit to Brown’s head, which set up Chris Boswell’s field goal for an 18-16 victory with 14 seconds left. During the seven-game streak, the Steelers have rallied from deficits of 17-0 and 17-3 to win at Paul Brown Stadium. Last December, Boswell’s 38-yard field goal on the final play gave Pittsburgh a 23-20 win.
Brown’s touchdown was the latest entry to the litany of letdowns.
“Imagine how we feel,” cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “I imagine how the fans feel.”
They stood stunned as thousands of Steelers fans among them twirled their yellow towels in celebration. When Andy Dalton’s pass fell incomplete to end it, a scuffle broke out among players on the field as fans headed for the exits.
The numbers are staggering. The Bengals are 8-25 against the Steelers during coach Marvin Lewis’ 16 seasons, including 2-16 at Paul Brown Stadium, including two playoff losses. Overall, Cincinnati has lost 10 of 11 and 15 of 18 in the series.
The Bengals’ defense was depleted by injuries on the final drive, but the decision to go for an all-out blitz and leave no safeties to protect the end zone wound up costing them. Ben Roethlisberger saw the defense line up and knew it could be a touchdown if he got the ball to Brown quickly. Brown ran untouched to the end zone, cutting behind Justin Hunter’s block.
“We are not going to second-guess anything,” Lewis said. “They made the play and we didn’t.”
The game also added another layer of hard feelings. Burfict traded words with Roethlisberger 3 minutes into the game, and a teammate had to push Burfict away from James Conner to prevent a penalty after the Steelers running back scored a touchdown.
Burfict hit Brown in the head as he was being tackled after a reception in the third quarter. The play wasn’t flagged, but Brown got up woozy and had to miss a couple of plays before returning. The NFL is expected to review the play.
“A nasty hit,” Brown said.
After the game, Burfict yelled at a reporter who asked a Bengals player about the hit. Lewis declined to comment on it.
“I don’t know what play you are talking about,” he said. “There were a lot of plays out there.”