Posted: 12:15 a.m.
If anyone wanted to see what this 23-20 Bengals victory over Pittsburgh is made of, they just had to see the bag the trainers gave rookie SAM linebacker Rey Maualuga before he left the locker room.
But not before he had to be helped into his suit coat after a typical take-no-prisoners AFC North game. Maualuga is getting an MRI on his left knee Monday morning, but he was so certain he's OK that he took a home therapy machine.
It looked like Maualuga was done for a lot more than the day when he crumpled to the ground in a pileup that yielded the final Steelers score of the day, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's one-yard touchdown sneak that gave Pittsburgh a 20-9 lead with three minutes left in the third quarter.
But as quickly as he was gone, he returned.
Maualuga jumped in the pile and 344-pound left guard Chris Kemoeatu fell on his left knee and he heard a sickening pop. The trainers and doctors helped him off and when he reached the sidelines they put him on a cart and he was driven off.
"I felt embarrassed going out on the cart and coming back and playing," Maualuga said. "I felt a pop. I was scared I didn't know what the whole situation was with my MCL or ACL. But when I got to my feet, I felt no pain whatsoever. I'm pretty sure I'll wake up in the morning and feel pretty sore ... I'll feel a little pain here and there."
Maualuga bolted back outside before the end of the quarter and finished the game with five tackles and a tackle for a loss.
"I felt good after I came in here," he said. "Why not go out and help the team?"
Cornerback Leon Hall was thinking the same thing. He came back for the fourth quarter after hurting his knee. Defensive tackle Tank Johnson may be more seriously hurt with a foot injury, but head coach Marvin Lewis was hopeful.
"I don't know that these injuries will keep either of them out for next week," he said.