You know the old mantra: football is a game of inches.
As such, seasons can often turn on a handful of plays, where mere inches make up the difference between winning and losing, the playoffs and an early vacation.
The Steelers played games stressful enough to give fans heart attacks all season, with many of them turning on just one or two plays. With just a few of these plays going the other way, Pittsburgh might be heading to the playoffs for the third straight year instead of cleaning out their lockers. Let’s take a look at some of example.
Week 5: Kenny Britt’s game-tying touchdown/Shaun Suisham’s missed FG
With just over four minutes to go, Matt Hasselbeck found Britt at the left pylon for the tying score. Breaking on the throw, cornerback Ike Taylor very nearly got his hands on the ball for what would have been an easy touchdown going the other way. Instead, Britt corralled the ball after a momentary bobble.
Following that score, the Steelers got themselves in position for what would have been a game-tying field goal. Suisham’s try at the 54-yarder fell just feet short, giving the Titans time to set Rob Bironas up for 40 yard kick that sailed through as time expired.
Week 9: Roethlisberger’s injury on MNF against the Chiefs
When “Steelers vs. Chiefs” showed up on the Monday Night Football slate, fans everywhere chalked it up as an easy win for the Black and Gold. A recurring issue for the Steelers popped back up in this game: a seemingly overmatched opponent hanging with them in a prime-time game.
Viewers were treated to an ugly game, with neither team seizing control. The Steelers, unable to get a running game going, were forced to try to win the game through the air late in the game. While it’s unreasonable to criticize a team for doing what it takes to win in a close game, you can find fault with the Steelers letting one of the worst teams in the league hang around, forcing them to expose their quarterback behind their banged-up offensive line.
Week 15: Cowboys’ CB Brandon Carr picks off Ben Roethlisberger in OT
In a game between two underperforming teams fighting for their playoffs, it seemed only fitting that the game came down to one game-altering mistake. Roethlisberger, who had played a solid game to that point, tried to get the ball to a seemingly-open Mike Wallace. What he didn’t see was Carr playing inside, in position to break on the throw to the sideline.
After the game, Big Ben took some thinly-veiled shots at offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s play-calling, criticizing the lack of no-huddle drives. While the discontent with the offensive coordinator had been present all season, going to the media with complaints after a tough loss only cemented this as a low point in the schedule.
Back-to-back close losses, both featuring back-breaking interceptions. While Reggie Nelson’s interception with time winding down in the fourth quarter allowed the Bengals to sneak out of Pittsburgh with a game-winning field goal, the pick that Hall returned for a touchdown was much more devastating. Cincinnati couldn’t do anything on offense all day, with Pittsburgh’s defense allowing only six points and 267 total yards. Hall’s TD was the only time the Bengals got into the end zone in a game that neither team seemed to want to win.