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Must-win territory for Bengals, too

| Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

The Cincinnati Bengals must be hoping they don't play two must-win games in a row.

If they don't beat the Steelers on Sunday, their only road to the playoffs is to beat the Baltimore Ravens (9-5) at home on Dec. 30 and hope the Steelers (7-7) lose to the Cleveland Browns (5-9).

The problem: The Bengals have dropped their past nine to the Steelers (five straight) and Ravens (four in a row).

“We do this in order to win championships,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “In order to win championships, you've got to go through the teams who have been the best on our side, and that's Pittsburgh, number one, and Baltimore.”

The last time the Bengals won their final two games of a season? It was 2008, when they won their final three, yet still finished 4-11-1. The Bengals are 10-5 on the road the past two seasons. They've won four times at Heinz Field, in 2003, '05, '06 and '09.

End of the road?

The Steelers could retain potential free agent Mike Wallace by designating him as their franchise player in 2013, but that could cost $8 million-$10 million. That's a steep price for a team that gave receiver Antonio Brown a $42.5 million deal last summer.

With Wallace's market value likely more than the Steelers can afford, he might be finishing his four-season career in Pittsburgh.

“I definitely know it's a possibility. Everybody knows,” Wallace said. “But this is still my team, I'm still with my teammates, and I love being around here. Honestly I really haven't thought about anything but winning these two ballgames.”

Pay no mind

Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery on Ben Roethlisberger's apology for criticizing the play-calling in Dallas: “We weren't even paying attention to it, but he still apologized.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at arobinson@tribweb.com.

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