Two weeks after the Bengals stunned the Falcons on the road with a touchdown in the last 10 seconds of the game, the Steelers did it to them Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger flipped to wide receiver Antonio Brown a 31-yard quick pass on a rub route through an empty defensive middle for a touchdown and Pittsburgh's 28-21 victory.
Roethlisberger's 44th game winning drive swiped Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton's 21st that had seemingly been secured with 78 seconds left as Dalton finished off another 90 rating day (92.3) on 26 of 42 passing for 229 yards and two TDs.
The fourth-quarter magic that brought them three of their four victories this season vanished as the Bengals only saw defensive injuries pile up.
Cornerback Dre Kirkpartrick was called for holding on Roethlisberger's third-down incompletion with 22 seconds left and Big Ben wasted no time. On the next snap he hit wide receiver JuJu Schuster down the middle for 23 yards to set up Brown's stunner with 10 seconds left.
Running back Joe Mixon's four-yard touchdown run behind double-teaming right tackle Bobby Hart and right guard Alex Redmond and Randy Bullock's extra-point gave them the 21-20 lead with 1:18 left.
The previous two plays were bullets from Dalton to wide receiver A.J. Green for a total of 30 yards, one a 23-yarder down the middle of a Steelers zone and the other a seven-yarder to stop the clock on the sideline. Wide receiver Tyler Boyd's turn-back-and-snatch catch for a 16-yarder put the ball at the Steelers 35 at the two-minute warning on a play that moved Dalton past Boomer Esiason on the Bengals' all-time passing yardage list into second place.
The Bengals relied on the pass game with those 42 passes contrasted to Mixon's 64 yards on 11 carries.
Rookie cornerback Darius Phillips, on the field with Darqueze Dennard out and William Jackson and Kirkpatrick limping, did force a third-down fumble and the Steelers had to settle for another Chris Boswell chip-shot field goal that made it 20-14 with 3:32 left.
That came courtesy of Brown turning a simple slant inside Kirkpatrick for 49 yards, the bulk of his work on a 105-yard day that teamed with Smith-Schuster's 111 yards. With running back James Conner's 111 rushing yards on 19 carries at his disposal, Roethlisberger hit a 100.7 passer rating with a monstrous 369 yards. The key stat on the sheet is Roethlisberger wasn't sacked and he was hit just once. And that was by nose tackle Andrew Billings, not Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap or Carl Lawson.
The defense didn't give up a touchdown in the second half until the end, but when Dalton got the ball back with 3:32 left the Steelers had 208 yards in the half to just 44 for the Bengals on the way to thumping them, 481-275 in yardage.
The Bengals, wasting another 60-yard punt from Kevin Huber (63) and another big kick return by wide receiver Alex Erickson (51) to open the second half, couldn't take advantage.
Their offense responded with two three-and-outs and by the time they got the ball back with 1:01 left in the third quarter the Steelers had a 17-14 lead and field position with the Bengals taking over at their own 20. Then it got worse when Dalton scrambled out of the pocket and hit wide receiver Tyler Boyd on a 38-yard play that was wiped out by a holding call on left tackle Cordy Glenn after he got beat inside.
The highlight of the quarter was a goal-line stand that held the Steelers to Chris Boswell's chip-shot field goal that gave Pittsburgh a 17-14 lead midway through the quarter. On first down nose tackle Josh Tupou and defensive tackle stoned Conner and after an incomplete pass defensive end Sam Hubbard and SAM backer Vontaze Burfict penetrated for the stop.
The Bengals did scramble to the Steelers 40 after Glenn's penalty (there was a nice sliding catch by Boyd to convert third down on a day he had seven catches for 85 yards), but the Steelers got their third sack of the game when defensive end Stephon Tuitt worked between center Trey Hopkins and right guard Alex Redmond.
A big kick return by Erickson and quarterback and Dalton's 48-second microwave drive that resulted in Boyd's 23-yard touchdown catch with 19 seconds left gave the Bengals a 14-14 halftime tie.
That came after Boyd and fellow wide receiver Cody Core dropped third-down passes on consecutive series and then Roethlisberger converted two in the final three minutes of the half to give the Steelers a 14-7 lead.
When Conner scored on his second one-yard of the day with 1:13 left, it marked the 15th time in the last 22 games the Bengals have given up points in the final two minutes of the first half.
But Erickson solved that with the ensuing 47-yard return and with the Bengals going up 24 times in the half, Dalton promptly hit Green twice and tight end C.J. Uzomah once before finding Boyd all by himself against cornerback Artie Burns for Boyd's second touchdown of the day.
Dalton, victimized by four drops and two sacks finished the half 15 of 24 for 122 yards and a passer rating of 103.1. The Bengals called on their running backs six times, with Mixon's five carries for 40 yards accounting for all the rushing.
Facing a third-and-six from the Cincinnati 29, the Bengals blitzed but they didn't get near Roethlisberger and he floated a ball one-on-one to Smith-Schuster and he leaped over Dennard and tore the ball away from him to put the ball inside the 1. Dennard then left with the shoulder injury
Roethlisberger's leading receiver in the half was tight end Vance McDonald (five catches for 67 yards) and Conner pounded it 12 times for 48 yards. McDonald's big catch, a 26-yarder, came courtesy of missed tackles by Burfict and safety Shawn Williams and he rode middle linebacker Preston Brown and nose tackle Andrew Billings for the final five. Roethlisberger, 13 of 20 in the half for 154 yards and an 88.3 rating, also hit McDonald for a 12-yard gain over the middle on third-and-six to keep that TD drive going.
The Bengals parlayed a 36-yard Steeler punt into the first touchdown drive of the day that was capped when Boyd caught a two-yard, third-down touchdown pass after Dalton alertly saw him lined up in the slot against linebacker Anthony Chickillo.
That came after Dalton saw Green matched up with linebacker Vince Edwards down the middle and after dropping two easy slants too start the game, Green made a tremendous leaping 19-yard catch.
While the Steelers came out looking to establish the run, the Bengals came out chucking. Dalton hit five of his first 11 passes for just 37 yards while Mixon carried three times for 17 yards. One was a bolt up the middle (and cut to the right) for 14 yards.
Mixon added a 17-yarder off the right perimeter, but the Bengals were going pass heavy and Dalton got abused by his receivers when they dropped two on third down after Green dropped the early two. After that Mixon run, Dalton found Boyd on third-and-four on a back-shoulder throw and he couldn't hang on.
On the next series the Bengals kept throwing on first down and found themselves looking at second-and-15 when Dalton got bull-rushed up the middle for sack. Then on third-and-six Dalton had Core wide open across the middle for a first down and he dropped.
The Bengals began the day stuffing Conner for four yards on his first three carries, but after Cincinnati took a 7-0 lead Conner got the Steelers going with a 26-yard run behind pulling right guard David DeCastro and center Maurkice Pouncey that sealed off the Bengals' right perimeter.
It was a costly play. The Bengals lost Vigil to a left knee injury that took out the NFL's fourth-leading tackler for the rest of the game and he was replaced by veteran Vincent Rey. Then the Bengals just missed getting a pick when left end Carlos Dunlap tipped yet another pass (six) in the air, but it was Roethlisberger that caught it. Then on second-and-21 Smith-Schuster got inside Dennard for the first down and Conner did the rest. His one-yard tied the game at seven in the first minute of the second quarter.
Images from week six as the Bengals host the Steelers in an AFC North showdown.