Inside the locker room at Cincinnati

Head coach Mike Tomlin
Initial comments ...

Game action from the Steelers' AFC Wild Card game against the Bengals.

"I thought we played well in the first half, and I thought they gained momentum in the second. We made just enough plays to pull it out. It wasn't a perfect game by any respect in terms of execution and penalties and so forth, but such is life. We'll take this victory and move forward. We feel very fortunate to have gone into a hostile environment versus a good team. We tip our cap to those guys. I thought we both represented the AFC North and what the AFC North is about tonight. We had some injuries tonight obviously. Antonio Brown has got a concussion. Ben Roethlisberger has got a shoulder. He was able to go back in the game, and I don't know how far he was able to throw the ball. That's why that last drive looked the way it looked in terms of feeling fluid. He didn't throw many balls down the field, but he was good enough. We appreciate his efforts. Will Johnson had a hamstring and Robert Golden had a shoulder. We've got to work quick, and we're going into another hostile environment. We respect it. We respect all of this stuff. It's January ball. We're not a perfect group, but we did enough to move on. We hope to say that again next week."

Did Roethlisberger have conviction to go back in?
"It was dire. Ben and I have been together for nine years. We kind of looked at each other and said now or never."

Can you recall being in a game with so many twists and turns?
"I probably have. This one obviously stands out because it just happened. I've been in this thing long enough to be in those games, and it's just good to come out on top."

What was your reaction when Roethlisberger had to be carted off?
"I don't have time to cry over spilled milk and things of that nature. It's more about the guys who are available to us, and preparing them, and readying them, and communicating with them, and making sure they aren't confused as to what's going on. Not only in Ben's situation, but in any situation where we lose a guy, we understand that you move on to the next guy who has to deliver for us in some form or fashion. That's what I did in that instance."

Do you have any indication if Ben will be able to play next week?
"I don't have any indication about any of the guys, whether it's Ben or Antonio or any one guy. We'll access it tomorrow and obviously we'll communicate it to you guys."

As great as Vontaze Burfict can be as a player, is he a detriment because of some of the mental mistakes?
"I'll let those guys address that. That's not my business."

Can you talk about your ability to run the ball and what you got out of Fitzgerald Toussaint tonight?
"We said it all week and we meant it. I know sometimes you guys think we don't, but we had a great deal of confidence in Fitz — not based on his resume, but based on what we see day-to-day. Regardless of his position in the group, he brings his hard hat and comes to work every day — whether he was a practice squad runner, or once we moved him to the 53-man roster and an inactive guy that played a little bit, and now the guy who had to be the feature guy. His demeanor has never changed, and we find comfort in that. He did what we expected him to do tonight."

How vicious was that hit on Antonio toward the end of the game?
"It's football. These guys are trying to win and I'm sure that that wasn't his intention, but sometimes things happen. Mike Mitchell hit Tyler Eifert the last time we played him. It was a low ball and he was trying to break the ball up. That wasn't his intention. We all respect player safety. Sometimes plays are bang-bang, and they're unfortunate. I'm sure that's the perspective they had on that play, much like some of the plays that we had."

What happened on the sideline with Coach Mike Munchak?
"I wasn't over there so I don't know. Coach Munchak had his back to the field initially and the ball came out of bounds. He turned around and the young man was in his face. I don't know what the refs saw or thought they saw, but anybody that knows Mike Munchak knows he's who he is and what he's about as a football man. We'll accept the officiating. These guys did a great job, Mr. Perry and his group. It was a tough, tough, hostile environment and a competitive football game. I thought they did a great job of communicating and controlling."

Does anything else surprise you about Big Ben and what he can with pressure?
"He's our guy. I wouldn't trade him for anyone else."

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger

How did you get your way back into the game? What were the circumstances on the sidelines?
"Coach came to me and asked me if I could do it, and I said I would give it everything that I've got."

How far could you have thrown the ball down the field?
"I don't know; I didn't have to test it out. Coach called one deep one in there and obviously he had to because time was running out. So I went over to the sideline and said 'Coach you can't do that anymore, I can't throw it that far.' We knew we had to work our way down the field."

When you were in the locker room, were you aware what was happening on the field at all?
"A little bit. You are back seeing the doctors and this and that, and you are trying to ask them about scores, time, things like that."

Did that prompt you to hurry things up a little bit?
"I came back in here and tried to throw a little bit and I said, 'I am going to go back out there.' Whether I could go in or not, at least me being out there would hopefully get the guys going a little bit."

Can you take us through the play you got injured on?
"We had good protection, and they got into a coverage that from my perspective, there was probably someone open. I checked on AB (Antonio Brown) and Markus (Wheaton) and there was nothing there. I tried to get out the pocket and I probably should have tried to step up but I felt like Markus had his guy locked up enough that I could get outside the pocket. He (Burfict) grabbed me and I knew he was taking me down and I knew it was going to be a quarterback-not-so-friendly hit, and I tried to twist, but I couldn't twist enough and he landed right on my shoulder."

Did you hear anything encouraging from the trainers in regards to the injury?
"We won the game."

What was your view of the final sequence with two penalties on the Bengals?
"I threw a ball to AB, and that was my concern, because he was down. I saw the penalty and then I didn't really know what happened. I saw one of their guys push one of our guys and I saw a flag. I am not familiar with what happened exactly."

It probably doesn't rank with the Super Bowl win, but how does this win rank?
"It feels pretty good coming to Cincinnati and getting this win, this way. I am just so proud of so many guys. Our running backs Fitz (Toussaint) and Jordan (Todman), they stepped up and played and it was just awesome. I though Martavis (Bryant) played great. I thought we played great as a team; offense, defense and special teams. I told the guys of course we want to win every game by 40, but of course that's not going to happen; you have to find any way possible to win the game, and I thought we did that."

How would you describe Bryant's touchdown catch?
"Spectacular. SportsCenter Top 10."

All is well that ends well that ends well after your motivational talk with Martavis Bryant ...
"There was no issue anyway. He responded all week that way and I knew he would. I talked to him and I thought the media made a bigger deal of it then it was. It was a challenge, not a call out. I challenged him as a little brother and a guy that I love to death. He is a dynamic football player and you saw that what he can do is amazing and we need him."

You've played through a lot of different injuries. Is this one you will be able to play through next week?
"I'm going to give it everything I can just like I always do. I think we play on Sunday so we have an extra day. We will get it evaluated in the next couple days."

How much pain were you in tonight?
"A lot."

When Ryan Shazier forced the fumble, was it a no-brainer that you were going back out?
"I was at the other end of the field, and Coach Tomlin kind of looked at me, and I was giving him the 'do you want me to go' type of look; give me the nod. I guess he agreed with me."

Was there any convincing needed on your part?
"No, he asked if I could I throw and I said I think so. I threw a couple balls on the sideline and said I'll give it a shot."

Is that the wildest finish of a game you've been a part of?
"It was pretty crazy. Those last two minutes were absolutely bizarre. There is no quit in this team and I am proud of them."

As well as you moved the ball on the last drive, have you ever seen a team self-destruct so bad with two penalties without the ball moving?
"It was kind of crazy. That drive was awesome because we got Fitz (Toussaint) involved, AB (Brown) involved; I missed a couple throws, but we moved the ball down the field and Boz (Chris Boswell) knocked it in."

Guard Ramon Foster
What do you think about the ending and how you got yards on two personal foul penalties?
"We won't complain about how we get them. We played our game and just executed when we needed to. Our kicker (Boswell) made the kick at the end. I guess anything can happen. We made it happen, and we're on the winning end of this."

Do you think they went a little overboard with some of the stuff they did throughout the game?
"I can't say anything about what they did or how they reacted or anything like that. We control only what we control. Like I said, they played on heck of a game. We have to be smart an level-headed throughout these playoffs."

Linebacker Arthur Moats
Were you surprised when QB Ben Roethlisberger came back out?
"Yeah. When he initially came back out, he didn't go right back in. We really didn't know the extent of his injury until he came back out. Defensively, we just told ourselves that we got to make a play. We gave up that touchdown late, it killed us. But we were able to get another turnover off of (Ryan) Shazier. That was a heck of a play causing that fumble and us recovering it. When he came on that last drive, we said we're going to live with him, we're doing to die with him. Everything worked out."

What were you thinking when Vontaze Burfict made that interception?
"Oh man, trust me, it killed us. We were like, 'Man, this could really be it.' But once we gathered ourselves again, we realized, 'OK, even though it's under two minutes, we still have three timeouts.' And we said, 'OK, if they run any plays, we've got to strip it.' That was consensus going into the huddle, and when they ran that run, Shazier made a heck of a play."

Kicker Chris Boswell

Have you played in any game quite like this?
"Me personally, I haven't. Having been new to the playoffs, I haven't been in these situations. The closest was probably San Diego in my first game when we won on a last-second touchdown, but nothing other than that."

Now you get a chance to kick again next week ...
"Yeah, definitely. We're guaranteed one more week, and that's all you can ask for."

How much did it change in your mind going from the 50 to the 20?
"It doesn't matter, if it's the 50, 35 or the 20. I always have the same process, same rhythm and same stroke."

Wide receiver Markus Wheaton
Have you played in any game quite like this?
"I can't say I have. That was a crazy game."

Is it a little more special against the Bengals?
"I guess you can say that. It's an AFC North rivalry. We know them; they know us."

At the end of the game with the penalty yardage, it doesn't matter to you how you get them, does it?
"At the end of the day, we are trying to win. Regardless how we got it, we won the game."

Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint
Did you think Ben Roethlisberger was going to come back?
"I knew he was going to come back. That's Ben Roethlisberger. That's probably the toughest quarterback in the NFL. You can't ask for more."

What kind of lift did he give you when he came into the game?
"That's a breath of fresh air right there. We took that and we ran with it. Our momentum came back and we were able to execute."

What do you think about how this game unfolded? Have you ever been in a game like this?
"No, I can't say there was a fight like this. That was really electrifying out there. It was really fun. We went out there and we played Steeler football and we executed our plan."

How did that final drive feel?
"We went out there and executed, like I said, and we had fun while we were doing it."

Do you think cooler heads prevailed today?
"At the end of the day, all we got to do is worry about what we got to do. We didn't get caught up into it."

Safety Robert Golden
How did you guys keep it together and make the comeback?
"The fumble, that gave us life. Then Ben (Roethlisberger) coming back after his injury, the offensive line protected him down the stretch, and guys making plays. It's great. We have a lot of games ahead of us."

Does this game show you that you have to play for 60 minutes?
"This is about playing for 60 minutes. At first, we were down when we were taking the field, but we said 'we have to make a play.' Ryan Shazier came up with a big caused fumble and gave us life — and we recovered it. It was just a timely play. Then Ben (Roethlisberger) coming back from injury and take the guys all the way down the field was huge. That just shows our character. They are a great team. They played well, their coached well, they fought, they fought, they fought. Hats off to them for a competitive game."

Safety Robert Golden
What can you say to the Steeler fans that are in the U.K.?
"I'm sure they were celebrating hard for us. I'm sure they supported us the whole time. We're just happy to get the victory."

Are you ready for next week?
"Definitely. We're going into Denver. It's going to be a great matchup. We're ready to get out there and get it done."

Right tackle Marcus Gilbert
What was that game like?
"We fought hard. That's the toughest game I've ever been a part of. Both teams showed a lot of emotion out there. Everybody played hard. We finished on top."

Was that a choke by the Bengals?
"I can't speak on that. All I can say is that they played their tails off. They battled hard. They came to play, but we finished on top. They didn't quit and we didn't quit, but the outcome of the game was the Steelers on top."

When Vontaze Burfict made that interception, were you thinking, not that guy?
"That dude's a playmaker. He's all over the field. Obviously, the defense went back out there and came through in the clutch. What a game (Ryan) Shazier had. He had a big game. Those guys didn't give up. We didn't give up. We knew with a minute and fifty seconds that we could make something happen and we did. We practice it all the time. We got the outcome to get to where we need to be."

Defensive end Cameron Heyward
Can you talk about the ending to the game?
"I'm happy to be on the winning side of this game. Tip your hat to them, but until it's zero on the (clock), you keep fighting."

They were planning on running out the clock. What were you guys thinking as a defense?
"We had three timeouts and all we needed to do was stop the ball. We knew they were going to run the ball, which is fine. We just ripped at the ball. It was a great opportunity."

There were back-to-back personal foul calls at the end. What happened?
"You just have to be level-headed. We really tried to stress to our side, stay off the field and don't pick up the penalty. You have to be disciplined."

Wide receiver Martavis Bryant

When they had the ball with a minute and 50 seconds left, did you still believe?
"I was just waiting for an opportunity to for us to go out and secure the game."

Early thoughts on Denver?
"They're a great team. We'll go to work tomorrow and get ready for them."

You saw Denver a couple weeks ago, will it be a similar game or completely new?
"Completely new. It's the playoffs. The stakes are about to go up, so I'm going to have to bring my A-game.

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