The AFC North rivals meet in the regular-season finale for both
It could be the last game for Bill Cowher, who will complete his
15th season as coach of the Steelers - the league's longest
active tenure with one team.
Cowher has compiled a 160-99-1 overall record, including
148-90-1 in the regular season. Only 10 coaches in NFL history
have won 130 or more games with one team.
Last season, Cowher won his first Super Bowl title to go with
six trips to the AFC championship game, eight division titles
and 10 playoff berths.
But the Steelers became the first Super Bowl champion to fail to
make the playoffs the following year since the 2002 Tampa Bay
The Bengals made the playoffs last season for the first time in
15 years. They can return to the postseason with a win Sunday
along with a loss by the New York Jets, who host hapless
Cincinnati can also make the postseason with a win coupled with
a loss by Denver and a win by Kansas City.
Last week, the Bengals had control of their playoff destiny, but
botched the snap on an extra-point attempt in a heartbreaking
24-23 loss at Denver. Brad St. Louis' snap sailed wide and
could not be handled by holder Kyle Larson, preventing Shayne
Graham from even attempting the extra point.
The Bengals thought they were headed to overtime when Carson
Palmer hit T.J. Houshmandzadeh with a 10-yard touchdown pass
with 41 seconds left in the fourth quarter. But Graham, who has
made his last 158 extra points, didn't get a chance to tie the
Last week, the Steelers were officially eliminated from playoff
contention by the Baltimore Ravens, 31-7.
When the schedule was made this past offseason, many envisioned this finale as the game that would determine the AFC North champion. Well, the Ravens had a little something to say about that, but this game does remain critical to the Bengals. Pittsburgh was dominated for a second time this season by the Ravens last week and its playoff hopes are history.
These teams met in Week 3 in Pittsburgh. In that game, the Steelers made a rash of errors and the Bengals left Heinz Field with a 28-20 win. Last week Cincinnati lost in Denver, 24-23, after botching a snap on an extra point that probably would have sent the game into overtime. Regardless of the playoff standings or possibilities, this is a heated rivalry and both teams want this win very badly. Cincinnati's backs are against the wall.