CINCINNATI, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- After missing an extra point late in regulation, Neil Rackers kicked a 31-yard field goal 10:52 into overtime Sunday as the Cincinnati Bengals snapped the seven-game winning streak of the AFC Central champion Pittsburgh Steelers, 26-23.
Despite the setback, the Steelers claimed home-field advantage throughout the playoffs when the Oakland Raiders fell later in the day to the Denver Broncos.
"We did not deserve to win this football game today," Steelers Coach Bill Cowher said. "This should serve as a wakeup call for this football team."
Enduring a disappointing season, Rackers struggled again Sunday, missing field goals for 32 and 28 yards in the first half. But what happened at the end of regulation was even worse.
Former Steelers draft pick Danny Farmer caught an 18-yard touchdown pass with 37 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, tying the contest at 23-23. But Rackers hooked the point after wide right.
"That was probably the worst," Rackers said. "I cussed. I prayed. At different times of course."
In overtime, the Bengals moved 86 yards in 11 plays against the NFL's top-ranked defense, giving Rackers another chance.
Just 13 of 24 on the season, Rackers started the ball at the right upright and it hooked back between the posts, giving the Bengals (4-10) the victory and snapping their seven-game losing streak.
"I told myself just to stroke the ball," Rackers said. "I was excited. I wanted another chance."
"I told Neil to get his mind right (after he missed the extra point) because you're going to kick the game-winning field goal," Bengals Coach Dick LeBeau said. "I told him to look at nothing but being successful."
Pittsburgh quarterback Kordell Stewart threw three touchdown passes, but was intercepted four times.
"This is a blessing in disguise because you don't get a second chance in the playoffs," Steelers safety Lee Flowers said. "We've got a good Cleveland team coming up next week and we have to figure out a way to redeem ourselves."
In control for much of the contest, the Steelers opened a seemingly safe 23-10 lead with under four minutes left in the third quarter on Stewart's 37-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline to running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala.
The lead could have been a point more, but embattled Kris Brown missed an extra point. Brown has missed three extra points this season and converted just 29 of 42 field goal attempts.
But the Bengals, who had averaged just 6.2 points during their losing streak, were able to rally but had some help from their defense.
Rookie defensive end Justin Smith intercepted Stewart in Pittsburgh territory and broke off a seven-yard return to the Steelers' 32.
The big defensive play led to Jon Kitna's six-yard touchdown pass to Ron Dugans with 2:46 remaining in regulation, pulling the Bengals within 23-17.
Cincinnati came up with another big play on the ensuing onside kick, when Rackers' squib was recovered by Bengals rookie Riall Johnson at his own 46.
Kitna moved the Bengals 54 yards in 10 plays. He capped the march with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Farmer, who made the catch in front of cornerback Dewayne Washington.
Kitna attempted 68 passes, the third most in league history and completed 35 for 411 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
"That reminds me of college. We threw a lot at Central Washington," Kitna said. "I was comfortable. We got behind and they left themselves open to the passing game. They blitz a lot and do some more things that open up the passing game."
"You have to take your hat off to them," Flowers said. "They had a great game plan and Kitna was able execute."
On their first drive of overtime, the Steelers made it to the Cincinnati 39 before being forced to punt.
After being pinned at their own one, the Bengals were able to move down the field for the winning score.
Brandon Bennett, who was in the game with Corey Dillon out with a jammed finger suffered earlier on the contest, immediately got things started, running around left end for 36 yards.
Kitna had completions of 15 yards to Farmer and a 13-yard connnection to Peter Warrick third and 10, moving the ball to the Pittsburgh 21.
After running two plays, the Bengals turned to Rackers, who kicked the game-winning field goal on third down.
Behind the improving Stewart, it looked as if Pittsburgh would have little trouble against the Bengals, opening a 14-0 advantage in the first quarter.
Stewart threw touchdown passses of 42 and 28 yards to Plaxico Burress just over 3 1/2 minutes apart, staking them to the early lead. Stewart went 19 of 35 for 251 yards while Burress had six catches for 102 yards.
Thanks to a special teams gaffe, the Steelers allowed Cincinnati to get back in the game.
While setting up for a 47-yard field goal, the Steelers watched a perfect snap go through the hands of punter Josh Miller. Robert Bean scooped up the ball and lateraled to Brian Simmons, who ran 56 yards for a touchdown to pull the Bengals within 14-7 with 4:41 left in the half.