It turns out that Josh Brown, who put the Bengals into the playoffs on the wings of a 43-yard field goal Sunday with four seconds left to give Cincinnati a 13-10 victory and eliminate the hosts from the postseason, also has a big chip on his shoulder against the Steelers. As he came off Heinz Field he was overheard saying that his eighth career game-winner in the last minute or overtime was one for Super Bowl XL.
"That was my only opportunity to possibly win a Super Bowl," said Brown, who kicked for Seattle when the Steelers beat the Seahawks in Detroit after the 2005 season. "Now I get the opportunity to take something from them. That is something that is probably a small chip on my shoulder."
Brown kept one of the best feel-good Bengals stories ever going. A nine-year vet who didn't have a job until Dec. 6, the day after Mike Nugent injured his kicking calf, Brown has kicked in the last three games and made all but one of his nine field-goal tries.
And that 56-yarder with 3:18 left Sunday had people shaking their heads. Including the man who called for it, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. It was way short and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a first down from his own 46, a mere 20 yards or so for one of the NFL's hottest kickers, Shaun Suisham.
It wasn't enough, and matched Brown short from 53 yards going into the feared open end of Heinz with 1:47 left.
Brown's career long is a 58-yarder as a rookie in 2003, but although he's the NFL's active leader for percentage of hitting kicks of 50 and beyond, he hasn't hit a 56-yarder since, and the longest field goal in the 12 years at Heinz is 52.
"They bailed me out," said Lewis, but Brown was delighted Lewis showed the faith.
The play was rushed. Brown didn't know he was going out there until late, and the offense had just 10 seconds to get lined up and he ended up slipping.
"I was pumped, although it didn't help I slipped," Brown said. "I was l like, 'I won't miss the next one.' "
And he didn't. Brown read the wind right to left and coolly hit it inside the right upright. His new mates mobbed him and said "Thank you," and he got a few "Merry Christmases."
He couldn't remember if he had ever put a team into the playoffs. The most recent thing like this in Bengaldom may be Jim Breech's overtime kick in the regular-season finale against Washington at Riverfront Stadium that gave the Bengals homefield advantage for the 1988 playoffs.
"I've made game-winners in playoff runs," Brown said.
And they're still running. Like he said when asked if it was the biggest field goal of his career, "I don't know. The career's not over."
A lot of people thought it was when he didn't have a job and was home with his three kids.
"I was Mr. Dad and I loved that," Brown said. "But I want to play."
Lewis admitted he had some aggressive moves that "backfired" Sunday. When the Bengals were headed into the open end in the third quarter, he passed on a 51-yard field goal and went for it on a curious fourth-and-22 from the Steelers 33 that failed when wide receiver A.J. Green's second foot was barely out of bounds on a bomb. The old Heinz wives tale is that the wind blows hard off the river through the open end.
"I was surprised," Brown admitted when Lewis didn't call on him then. "But coaches get (nervous) about kicking into that open end and you saw what happened to Suisham, who's more than capable of kicking 53-yarder and he was short."
But the 43-yarder had plenty of juice on it. The words of special teams coach Darrin Simmons hung with Brown.
"It was all about trust," Brown said. "Darrin had been telling me all day, 'Trust yourself, trust yourself.' It's the best advice I've had in a while."
REGGIE, REGGIE: Safety Reggie Nelson came up with his third interception of the season, ninth as a Bengal, 16th in the NFL, and undoubtedly the biggest of his career.
But give a big assist to cornerback Terence Newman.
It came on second-and-five from the Steelers 29 with 24 seconds left in a 10-10 game and instead of opting for overtime, Roethlisberger chose to go into overdrive and Nelson burned him when he sailed the ball over wide receiver Mike Wallace's head at the Bengals 44 on the left sideline.
"My job was to stay back; keeping everything in front of me," Nelson said. "I was going to tackle him when he caught it, but I saw the ball was going over my head. My eyes got big. I was thinking, 'I better catch this one' because I had dropped one before."
Nelson had enough presence of mind to weave back the other way. But by the time he picked up 10 yards, Newman had seen enough and pushed him out of bounds at the Steelers 46 to stop the clock at 14 seconds.
"A veteran move," Nelson said and the Bengals had time to run one play (Andy Dalton's 21-yard pass to A.J. Green) to set up Brown's field goal.
NEXT?With the 9-6 Bengals safely tucked into the AFC's sixth seed and hosting the 10-5 AFC North champion Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium in Sunday's 1 p.m. regular-season finale, it could be a preview of the Jan. 5-6 wild card games.
If the Ravens beat the Bengals and the Patriots lose to Miami at home next Sunday, the Bengals could end up traveling to Baltimore, where they began the season in a 44-13 loss on Monday night.
What the Bengals do know is that they play the No. 3 seed on the road and there are plenty of scenarios. If the Texans lose at Indianapolis while the Broncos beat the Chiefs at home and the Patriots beat the Dolphins at home, it will be a rematch of last year's Wild Card game with the Bengals going to quarterback Andy Dalton's hometown of Houston trying to reverse last year's 31-10 loss.
But if Denver and Houston both win, New England is No. 3 and the Bengals go to Foxboro, Mass., to play the Patriots for the first time in the Dalton-A.J. Green era. If New England wins and Denver loses, the Broncos are No. 3, the Houston result doesn't matter, and the Bengals would have a rematch against Denver quarterback Peyton Manning after he beat them, 31-23, at PBS on Nov. 4.
The Bengals also know Sunday's game won't be flexed. The NFL said the Ravens game stays at 1 p.m.