Andrew Whitworth walked purposely toward the sideline as his offensive teammates behind him huddled for their final play of the game. After finding himself in the middle of three chippy scraps in four plays he couldn't help himself.

He waved his arms in the air to urge on the orange-clad Bengals fans celebrating their second home victory against the Steelers in the last 13 tries. Once reaching the sideline he tossed aside his helmet left spinning on the Paul Brown Stadium turf. Whitworth curled his hand up to his ear and asked to hear the cheers again.

For this undeniable team leader making his 103rd career start this game meant more than others.

“To be honest before the opening kickoff I was emotional” Whitworth said. “It's been a tough road. With my knee injury and having another procedure and also did a little something to my right knee and had to have some stuff done to it. I had a lot of stuff go on that was one thing after the other. I felt like I was never going to get back on the field.”