Ben Roethlisberger did it again. For the second week in a row, the Pittsburgh Steelers' chances at a much-needed win were dashed by a costly interception thrown by No. 7. This loss, to the visiting Cincinnati Bengals, dropped the Steelers to 7-8 and ended their bid for a playoff spot.
With the game deadlocked at 10 and just 44 second remaining in regulation, the Steelers took possession at their own 11-yard line. Rather than be content to head into overtime, Roethlisberger came out throwing. After two pass plays, the final Steelers' snap of the possession came with about 20 seconds remaining and 71 yards between them and the end zone. Facing a 2nd-and-5 at the 29-yard line, Roethlisberger scrambled to his right before heaving a deep pass up the sideline toward wide receiver Mike Wallace. The ball was overthrown and went right into the open arms of Bengals safety Reggie Nelson, who promptly returned the ball to the Steelers' 46-yard line. This was the second interception of the game by Roethlisberger. Bengals cornerback Leon Hall picked off a pass intended for tight end Heath Miller in the first quarter and returned it 17 yards for the first touchdown of the game.
Given one last chance to win (and far more favorable field position than the Steelers had) in regulation, the Bengals took advantage. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton connected with wide receiver A.J. Green on a 21-yard pass, setting up the game-winning field goal by Josh Brown.
Perhaps Roethlisberger and the Steelers were being so aggressive in the waning moments of the fourth quarter after a bad experience in overtime last week. The Steelers were pushed to the brink of elimination from the playoff chase after Roethlisberger threw a similarly confounding interception in the Steelers' overtime loss to the Cowboys in Week 15. After that loss, Roethlisberger questioned the play calling and inconsistent use of the no-huddle offense.
This week it may be his decision making that is under scrutiny. Roethlisberger completed 14 of 28 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown. As the Steelers' clinched a long offseason, the Bengals locked up a spot in the AFC playoffs with the 13-10 win.