The Steelers took the lead in the first quarter when Antonio Brown dodged several tacklers on a punt from Kevin Huber, and he reversed his direction and found an open field to score a 71-yard touchdown.
Cincinnati responded as Andy Dalton produced a solid drive before finding Giovani Bernard over the middle of the field, and the back ran all the way to the one-yard line before jumping over a defender to reach the endzone.
The Bengals took the lead when Mike Nugent kicked a 39-yard field goal following an error from Ben Roethlisberger as he fumbled the ball, but Shaun Suisham tied the scores with an effort from 29 yards.
Pittsburgh restored their lead when Dalton was intercepted by Brice McCain as AJ Green tipped the ball into the cornerback's hands. Two plays later Roethlisberger fired to Martavis Bryant on a screen pass and the receiver sprinted in for a 21-yard score.
Roethlisberger had three attempts to score a touchdown before the half, but his throws all fell incomplete, leaving Suisham to knock a 25-yard effort through the posts.
In the third quarter neither side could add to the scoreboard as Nugent missed a 50-yard field goal, while Roethlisberger saw his pass intercepted by Reggie Nelson.
The Bengals brought themselves back into the game early in the fourth when Dalton drove his team inside the red zone, and then found Jermaine Gresham for a five-yard score with a throw to the flat.
Pittsburgh tried to extend their next drive to restore their comfortable lead, but Suisham's attempted pass from punt was intercepted by Dane Sanzenbacher. However, the Bengals gave the ball right back to the home side when Green fumbled the ball, allowing Antwon Blake to recover.
Pittsburgh now face their bitter rivals the Baltimore Ravens in the wildcard round of the playoffs next week at Heinz Field, while the Bengals travel to play the Indianapolis Colts.