Steelers 31

(11-5, 6-2 away)

Bengals 17

(11-5, 5-3 home)

4:30 PM ET, January 8, 2006


1 2 3 4 T
PIT 0 14 14 331
CIN 10 7 0 017

Top Performers

Passing: B. Roethlisberger (PIT) - 208 YDS, 3 TD

Rushing: R. Johnson (CIN) - 13 CAR, 56 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: C. Wilson (PIT) - 3 REC, 104 YDS, 1 TD

Pittsburgh (11-5) at Cincinnati (11-5)

Pittsburgh (11-5) at Cincinnati (11-5) Sunday 4:30 pm EST AFC wild card

CINCINNATI (Ticker) -- The rubber match between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers will be staged in the wild-card round on Sunday.

The Bengals are making their first playoff appearance in 15 years. But this is familiar territory for the Steelers, who are in the postseason for the 10th time in 14 years under coach Bill Cowher.

"It's 'The Brawl For It All.' It's 'The Rumble In the Jungle.' It's 'The Thrilla in Manila,'" Bengals running back Rudi Johnson said.

After going 8-8 in Marvin Lewis' first two seasons as coach, the Bengals are now a force to be reckoned with thanks to a young nucleus and an explosive offense led by Carson Palmer - the 2002 Heisman Trophy winner - wide receiver Chad Johnson and an opportunistic defense.

The Steelers have been a force to be reckoned with since Cowher took the job in 1992. He has guided the Steelers to eight division titles, a Super Bowl and four other championship games.

But the AFC North title went to the Bengals this season, their first division crown since they captured the AFC Central in 1990. They last hosted a playoff game on January 6, 1991, posting a 41-14 victory over the Houston Oilers in a wild-card game.

"There will be a lot of excitement in that stadium, their first playoff game in a long time," Cowher said. "It's a big, big challenge for us. We certainly have to play better than the last time we played them. It's going to be a big challenge for us."

Cincinnati took control of the division with a 38-31 victory at Pittsburgh on December 4.

Palmer completed 22-of-38 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns, Johnson ran for 88 yards and two TDs and the Bengals forced four turnovers, including intercepting Ben Roethlisberger three times.

"It gave us confidence. They were supposed to be the Super Bowl champs," Palmer said. "Everybody was thinking it was going to be their year. We went toe-to-toe with supposedly one of the best teams in the league. We proved to us and everyone around us that we can play any team on any given day if we just eliminate the turnovers and penalties, and mistakes. That our players are good enough, that our schemes are good enough, that we can beat anybody on any given day."

Rather than relying on their running game, the Steelers engaged in a shootout with the Bengals. An Ohio native, Roethlisberger completed 29-of-41 passes for a career-high 386 yards and three TDs but also made the critical mistakes.

The Steelers will be looking for a replay of a 27-13 victory here on October 23.

Willie Parker rushed for 105 of 131 yards in the second half, including a 37-yard touchdown run. Led by Parker and Jerome Bettis, who rushed for 56 yards, the Steelers amassed 221 yards on the ground on 47 attempts.

Roethlisberger went an efficient 9-of-14 for 93 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.

"We've played in that hostile environment before," Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter said. "And we're looking forward to it. We put ourselves in a situation to where we're alive, we're in the playoffs now. We're just looking forward to going down there and doing the best that we can do.

"We kind of know what to expect from them. They think they know what to expect from us. It's going to be a good game."

Roethlisberger will have to continue to be wary of the Bengals' ball-hawking secondary. Cincinnati led the league with 31 interceptions, including 10 by cornerback Deltha O'Neal that tied Ty Law of the New York Jets for the most in the NFL. Pittsburgh has won six of the last seven meetings between the teams here.

Matchup to watch: Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who had 12 catches for 163 yards and two touchdowns in two meetings against the Steelers this season, against left cornerback Ike Taylor.

Series: The Steelers lead, 42-29.

Next week: Pittsburgh visits Indianapolis, January 15 OR Cincinnati visits Denver, January 14


Passing Leaders

B. Roethlisberger67.44635308
R. Golden100.02500
A. Dalton63.531541715
M. Sanu100.07910

Rushing Leaders

L. Bell28213414.88
L. Blount652664.12
J. Hill19910245.19
G. Bernard1656724.15

Receiving Leaders

A. Brown122157012.912
L. Bell7777410.13
A. Green6195915.76
M. Sanu5577414.15

Team Averages & NFL Ranks

Total YardsPIT
Yards PassingPIT
Yards RushingPIT
Yards AllowedPIT
Pass Yds AllowedPIT
Rush Yds AllowedPIT

Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)

Pittsburgh leads 8-3
Dec 4, 2005PIT 31, CIN 38
Oct 23, 2005PIT 27, @CIN 13
Nov 21, 2004PIT 19, @CIN 14
Oct 3, 2004PIT 28, CIN 17
Nov 30, 2003PIT 20, CIN 24
Sep 21, 2003PIT 17, @CIN 10
Nov 24, 2002PIT 29, CIN 21
Oct 13, 2002PIT 34, @CIN 7
Dec 30, 2001PIT 23, @CIN 26
Oct 7, 2001PIT 16, CIN 7