Bills receiver Stevie Johnson was inconsolable for letting a victory slip through his hands. The Pittsburgh Steelers weren't going to let him or Buffalo get a second chance.
With his head down at the end of the bench, Johnson couldn't watch as Shaun Suisham hit a 41-yard field goal with 2:14 left in overtime to secure the Steelers' 19-16 victory Sunday.
It was a dramatic turn of events for the Bills and Johnson, in particular, after he could've ended the game in Buffalo's favor on the previous possession but dropped what would have been a 40-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick.
"I had the game in my hands and I dropped it," Johnson said. "Humbled. Humbled."
Then, growing emotional, Johnson added: "I'll never get over it. Ever."
In a game the Bills (2-9) proved they're not all that bad, the Steelers (8-3) showed why they're better.
Suisham hit all four of his field-goal attempts, including a 48-yarder. His decisive kick capped a 13-play, 58-yard drive which Ben Roethlisberger kept alive by hitting Mike Wallace for a 17-yard catch to convert third-and-8.
As the Steelers celebrated, not far from their minds was how close they came to losing.
"I had my helmet on and I was going to the locker room," defensive tackle Casey Hampton said, when he saw Johnson 2 yards in the end zone, having sneaked in behind defensive backs Ike Taylor and Ryan Clark.
"You're talking about a guy who's been extremely hot," Clark said of Johnson. "Luckily for us, he didn't (catch it)."
Rashard Mendenhall had 151 yards rushing and scored on a 1-yard plunge in helping Pittsburgh prepare for a AFC North first-place showdown at Baltimore
next weekend. Hines Ward had seven catches for 107 yards, and Roethlisberger finished 20 of 33 for 246 yards
Buffalo proved feisty in facing one of the NFL's elite teams by overcoming a 13-point first-half deficit and forcing overtime with 2 seconds left in regulation when Rian Lindell hit a 49-yard field goal. Fred Jackson had five catches for 105 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown, and added 59 yards rushing.
The Bills had a two-game win streak snapped. Each of their past four losses have been by 3 points, including two in overtime, after they lost 37-34 at Baltimore on Oct. 24, and 13-10 at Kansas City the following week. Buffalo was also coming off a 49-31 win at Cincinnati, in which it overcame a 21-point first-half deficit.
"We fought so hard out there, yet again, it's one of those overtime heartbreakers," said Fitzpatrick, who finished 23 of 45 for 265. "There's not much to say than the guys in that locker room, including me, are really hurting over that one."
In a game the Bills looked out of by halftime,
credit Fitzpatrick for showing he could not only take a vicious hit, but also punch back.
Down 13-0 late in the third quarter, linebacker James Harrison broke in untouched and, with his head lowered, struck Fitzpatrick just beneath the chin just as the quarterback got off a pass.
Harrison was penalized 15 yards for roughing the passer -- and faces another potential fine from the NFL for leading with his helmet.
"It's not going to change the way I play," said Harrison, who's already been docked $100,000 this season. "There was nothing wrong about the play."
Though knocked a little woozy, Fitzpatrick responded three plays later by hitting Jackson for his 65-yard touchdown catch and run.
The score gave the Bills life, as they eventually tied it at 13 when Lindell hit two field goals 2:07 apart -- the second set up after Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd stripped Mendenhall of the ball at the Steelers 23.
Ahead 16-13, the Steelers got a big defensive play from Troy Polamalu, who made a diving interception at the goal line after Fitzpatrick's pass bounced off Johnson's fingertips with 2:51 left in regulation.
Pittsburgh couldn't finish Buffalo off, even in front of a large contingent of Terrible Towel-waving Steelers fans that made the three-hour trip north.
The undisciplined Steelers were penalized 10 times for 107 yards -- including five offensive holding penalties, three called against guard Chris Kemoeatu.
"We can't make those mistakes as an offense," Roethlisberger said.
At least Big Ben could chime in on a victory, and couldn't help but comment on Johnson's drop.
"When he dropped it, I said, 'Well, hopefully that's new life for us,'" Roethlisberger
Notes: The Steelers dominated the entire first half in which they had edge in score, 13-0, time of possession (23 minutes, 55 seconds to 6:05), first downs (18-4) and yards offense (225-51). ... Bills coach Chan Gailey said DE Dwan Edwards is out indefinitely after hurting his left hamstring on the Steelers first possession. ... Fitzpatrick extended his TD streak to 12 games, the Bills' longest since Doug Flutie's 12-game streak in 1999.