PITTSBURGH -- The Cincinnati Bengals literally took one on the chin Sunday night at Pittsburgh, and so did their chances of earning a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The Steelers jumped the Bengals early and left them battered and bloodied while salvaging their own sliver of postseason hope with a 30-20 victory in front of a sparse crowd of 45,873 at Heinz Field.
The play that epitomized the loss for Cincinnati came in the first quarter when punter Kevin Huber suffered a fractured jaw on a blindside, helmet-to-helmet hit from Pittsburgh linebacker Terence Garvin.
While Huber was laying on the ground with a bloody mouth, Antonio Brown was returning the punt 67 yards for a touchdown to give the Steelers a 21-0 lead just 13 minutes and 48 seconds into the game.
Huber did not return from the blow, and really neither did the Bengals.
Cincinnati linebacker James Harrison, in his first trip back to Pittsburgh, left the game early with a concussion, and tight end Jermaine Gresham suffered a hip injury that ended his night early.
The loss kept Cincinnati (9-5) from sliding into the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs after New England (10-4) lost at Miami earlier in the day, and it also handed defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore control of its own destiny for winning the AFC North Division.
The Ravens face Detroit on Monday night with a chance to close within one game of the Bengals. Baltimore beat Cincinnati in the first meeting this year, and the two teams will meet again in two weeks in the season finale at Paul Brown Stadium.
Pittsburgh improved to 6-8 and will need to win out and get a lot of help to avoid missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Sunday night, they certainly looked like a playoff team. And the Bengals looked like anything but.
It all started when Huber dropped a punt snap and got tackled just shy of the goal line to set up a Le'Veon Bell 1-yard plunge for the Steelers' first touchdown 5:02 into the game.
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit Brown with a 12-yard TD pass on the Steelers' next drive. And after the Bengals went three-and-out, they and Huber went down for the count.
After falling behind 24-0 early in the second quarter, the Bengals got a 1-yard TD run from Giovani Bernard, and Andy Dalton threw second-half touchdown passes to Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones to get within 30-20 with 5:46 to go. But that was as close as it would get.
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