PITTSBURGH — Did the Bengals challenge the Steelers enough Sunday to convince team owner Mike Brown to give Marvin Lewis another year as head coach?
Did the 16-13 loss - after the Bengals had a 10-0 lead - matter at all?
Only Brown knows and he's not telling. Fans and players should find out Monday after Lewis and Brown have their usual end-of-the-season meeting.
At his post-game news conference, Lewis was indignant about being peppered with questions about his job status.
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) December 31, 2018
"I think it's ridiculous ... I think it's sad that that's the only thing they can point to. This isn't about me. This is about this football team and what they do ... It's not about one person. This is my job. That's it," Lewis said.
"We'll handle it tomorrow. We'll handle it tomorrow."
After meeting with Brown, Lewis is scheduled to meet with reporters at 11 a.m. Monday.
WATCH Bengals fans sound off about Lewis after Sunday's game:
Until then, speculation about Lewis' job security will be the hot topic in Bengal-land after the Bengals fell to 6-10 for their third straight losing season following five straight years in the playoffs. Brown gave Lewis a two-year contract after the 2017 season and cited the Bengals' victories in their last two games as part of the reason for not letting him go after 7-9 and 6-9-1 marks.
A win Sunday might have similarly encouraged Brown to honor the second year on Lewis' contract, not that anyone expected the injury-wracked Bengals to go to Pittsburgh and knock the Steelers out of the playoff contention. The Ravens did that by holding off the Browns in a Sunday evening thriller.
Without their starting quarterback and top two wide receivers, the Bengals offense didn't score a touchdown and managed only two field goals at Pittsburgh.
A rookie kicker the Steelers signed two days ago on an emergency basis turned out to be the difference. Matt McCrane hit 3-of-3 field goal tries from 39, 47 and 35 yards - the last with 1:56 to go to break a 13-13 tie.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Bengals jumped out to a 10-0 lead and silenced the rowdy Heinz Field crowd.
Early in the second quarter, safety Shawn Williams picked off Ben Roethlisberger and returned the interception 58 yards for the first pick-six of Williams' career.
Ten minutes later, Randy Bullock kicked a 49-yard field goal, and it looked like the Bengals might shut out the Steelers in the first half.
But a 16-yard pass on fourth down helped get them close enough for McCrane to kick a 39-yarder on the final play and make it 10-3.
The Steelers quickly tied it 10-10 in the third quarter on Roethlisberger's 11-yard TD pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. That followed a 47-yard pass from Roethlisberger to rookie James Washington.
Joe Mixon's 47-yard run set up the Bengals at the Steelers 15, but a third-down sack forced them to settle for Bullock's 32-yard field goal.
Mixon rushed for 105 yards, but the Bengals mustered just 196 total yards to lose for the seventh time in their final eight games.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel completed 12 of 24 passes for 95 yards and was sacked four times. Alex Erickson caught six passes on six targets for 63 yards.
Roethlisberger completed 31 of 45 for 287 yards. Pittsburgh had 343 total yards.
In the locker room, rookie defensive end Sam Hubbard wasn't ready to blame their 6-10 record on injuries.
"We had a lot of injuries, but you can't blame it all on that," Hubbard said. "We've just got to make more plays and win games down the stretch. We played a great football game today, left nothing out on the field, but came up short."