CINCINNATI – Ben Roethlisberger couldn't throw. Antonio Brown couldn't stand without help.
And in the end, it didn't matter. The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading to Denver after the Cincinnati Bengals did what they always seem to do this time of year: They imploded.
Chris Boswell kicked a 35-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining as Pittsburgh somehow pulled out an 18-16 victory in an ugly AFC wild-card game Saturday night.
Pittsburgh (11-6) moved into field goal position thanks to consecutive 15-yard penalties on the Bengals, one on linebacker Vontaze Burfict and another on cornerback Adam Jones. Burfict dropped his shoulder and hit a defenseless Brown in the helmet as the All-Pro receiver came across the middle, and Jones lost his cool while getting into it with Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter.
Boswell drilled his fourth field goal of the game on the next snap to give the Steelers their first playoff win since the 2010 AFC title game.
"We won the game, that's all that matters," Roethlisberger said.
Pittsburgh bolted off the field without so much as shaking hands while the Bengals vented their frustration after easily the most painful of their eighth straight postseason losses. Jones took to Instagram calling out Porter for being on the field, a post Jones later deleted.
Cincinnati might want to do the same after somehow losing despite rallying from a 15-point deficit to have the lead and the ball in Pittsburgh territory and the lead with 1:30 to go.
Then the Bengals turned into … the Bengals.
Jeremy Hill was stripped of the ball by Ryan Shazier while trying to run out the clock. The Steelers recovered at the Pittsburgh 9, and Roethlisberger and his aching right shoulder returned for a last-gasp drive. Unable to pass with any real authority, he still managed to get the Steelers near midfield with 22 seconds to go when he threw high to Brown in Cincinnati territory.
Burfict, whose sack of Roethlisberger sent the quarterback to the locker room, lowered his shoulder as Brown landed. The volatile linebacker was called for a personal foul. Jones compounded the problem when he jawed with Porter, easily putting Boswell within field goal range after Cincinnati's eighth — and final — flag.
Roethlisberger finished 18-for-31 for 229 yards and a touchdown in rainy conditions.
Still, it hardly seemed like it would be enough. AJ McCarron put together a stunning comeback after Martavis Bryant's somersaulting TD grab gave the Steelers a 15-0 lead heading into the final quarter.
Cincinnati (12-5) ripped off 16 straight points, the last six on a 25-yard strike from McCarron to A.J. Green that put the Bengals in front. They missed the two-point conversion but had seized momentum completely, something that seemed near impossible after running back Gio Bernard was knocked unconscious by Shazier and fumbled late in the third quarter, a hit that seemed to ratchet up a game that was already contentious all the way to the edge … and maybe beyond.
When Burfict intercepted Landry Jones on Pittsburgh's ensuing possession, Cincinnati and coach Marvin Lewis appeared ready to end the sixth-longest postseason drought in NFL history.
Then, the team that said it would keep it together fell completely apart.
"It was a really emotional game, I'm not surprised," Shazier said. "They seen the dam breaking and their emotions got to them."