CINCINNATI _ A 27-7 fourth-quarter lead had been reduced to just six points and the Bengals were a mere 12 yards away from making the Steelers' lead disappear entirely with 40 seconds remaining.
But on fourth-and-5 from the Steelers' 12-yard line, cornerback Ike Taylor and linebacker James Harrison combined to turn the tide one final time.
Harrison and Taylor sandwiched Cincinnati wide receiver Jordan Shipley at the Steelers' 4-yard line, the pass from quarterback Carson Palmer that Shipley had grasped momentarily fell incomplete, and the Steelers survived on a Monday night at Paul Brown Stadium, 27-21.
"We won," Taylor said. "I don't care how close the game was, we won. During those times you just have to stand up as a defense. That's what we did."
Palmer said Shipley was the second read on the play. He had lined up wide left in a three-wide receivers, one-running back, one-tight end set and then motioned back to the formation inside of slot receiver Terrell Owens before cutting up the field.
Taylor followed and expected the ball.
"(Palmer) had been looking at (Shipley) the whole time during the game," Taylor said. "That had been his go-to guy, other than T.O. I saw him going across and I figured (Shipley) was going to be (Palmer's) first option. As soon as I saw (Palmer) lock in on (Shipley) I kind of locked in on No. 11 (Shipley).
"I saw James come through on the other side and I figured we had a chance to get a pick or get the ball out. That's what happened, I stripped it out. James hit him, though, I stripped it out."
All that was left to do after that was execute a couple of kneel-downs from "Victory Formation" and the Steelers could finally exhale.
"I saw (Shipley) coming across and I was just trying to get the ball out," said Harrison, who wasn't sure in the immediate aftermath if his hit had been the one to knock the ball out of Shipley's hands.
"A possibility," Harrison said. "It might have been."
Coach Mike Tomlin was willing to credit Harrison with making a winning play, regardless of the particulars.
"It's really quite typical of James and the kind of play that he provides us," Tomlin said. "This guy is a great football player.
"He's a detail guy. He's a diligent worker. A lot has been written and said about him of late, but it's not the James that we know. This guy is a good football player. He makes timely plays for us. We'd like him to be measured by plays such as that and not unfortunate penalties and so forth."
Harrison has been fined a combined $100,000 by the NFL this season for hits the league deemed excessive on Tennessee's Vince Young, Cleveland's Mohamed Massaquoi and New Orleans' Drew Brees.
Only the Brees hit was penalized during a game.
"He's very cerebral," Tomlin said of Harrison. "And it takes that kind of demeanor to make those kinds of plays and pull the ball out, things of that nature. He does it and he does it time and again."