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Rossi: Steelers ailing, but advancing in playoffs

| Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, 12:36 a.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict sacks Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during the fourth quarter of their AFC wild-card game Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Cincinnati.


For real, who dey going to play for the Steelers in Denver?

They're headed to the Mile High city after an 18-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals that was seen, though I'm not entirely sure I believed what transpired at Paul Brown Stadium in the final half-hour of Saturday night.

Whatever happened, what's happening is an AFC divisional-round showdown between Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning.

I think.

I'm still not sure if Roethlsiberger can — or will or should? — play next Sunday afternoon against the Denver Broncos.

And I'm not convinced Mike Tomlin knows who he'll be able to coach for a Steelers team that left Cincinnati with way too many key players questionable for their next biggest game of the season.

Roethlisberger's right shoulder was injured at the end of the third quarter. Near the end of the fourth, Antonio Brown looked to be knocked unconscious by Vontaze Burfict.

Really is too bad that Burfict, as outspoken as he is dirty, hates Pittsburgh.

Can't see the guy getting a lot of love in Cincinnati over the next few months, if ever.

Burfict helped blow it for the Bengals. His cheap shot on Brown drew a deserving personal foul and moved the Steelers from the Bengals' 47 to the 32.

Another personal foul — hey there, Adam Jones; you did make a difference for the Bengals — placed the Steelers at the 17.

Chris Boswell, the Steelers' No. 4 kicker who is now No. 1 in the hearts of Pittsburghers, nailed a field goal.

Having him has been a blessing for the Steelers.

But the Steelers might only have him, which isn't going to be nearly enough against the Broncos' great defense.

Even if he can play, Roethlisberger sure looked limited on the final drive against the Bengals.

Brown looked lost as he was helped to the locker room.

It's comforting, at least, that the Steelers looked to run the ball without backup-turned-starting back DeAngelo Williams. A sprained right ankle kept him from playing, but Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman combined for 124 yards on 28 carries.

Would have been a good idea if offensive coordinator Todd Haley had kept feeding them handoffs instead of allowing Landry Jones seven passes in the fourth quarter.

But, hey, the Steelers won.

And Haley did give their backs a chance to impact this playoff game. He learned from a year ago, when the Steelers barely tried running the ball in a home wild-card loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

These Steelers, like those Steelers, looked quite capable of becoming something Super.

Couldn't stay healthy, though.

They aren't healthy at the worst possible time again, and their injury situation is a lot worse.

Credit Tomlin — heck, credit the entire Steelers organization — for figuring out how to win a playoff game for the first time in five years, especially this playoff game.

But the Steelers are stepping up in class for their next playoff game, and that begs the question:

Who's going to play?

Rob Rossi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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