One Play

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Wednesday, October 16th, 2012
By Tiger Rowan
Steelers Fever Columnist


Sometimes, games just simply come down to one play. That one play can be magnified when it is the last play of the game (e.g. a Hail Mary touchdown; a Scott Norwood missed field goal). At other times, that one play can happen earlier, yet still change the outcome of a game (e.g. a hundred-yard pick six by James Harrison in the SuperBowl). I get that and understand that; the ball is oddly-shaped, and does not always bounce the correct way. BUT, against a very poor team, such as the Titans, the balance of the game should NOT lie in that one play. In other words, the Steelers should have already been far enough ahead, that that one play would not have ruined their night.

Speaking of Scott Norwood, let us venture back in time, and take a look at the 1990 New York Giants. That team was barely eking out games. They played in a multitude of close games (games decided by less than three points), but regardless of whether the games were pretty or not, the Giants still won. That team always seemed to have that “one play” that went in their favor, which launched them into victory… with the poster-child play being the aforementioned Scott Norwood missed field goal.

Back to the Steelers.

Not only does this current Steelers team not establish much of an early lead and/or make game-changing plays throughout the course of the game, it seems that, more importantly, at crucial moments (specifically, at the end of games), they can not make that “one play” needed in order to seal a victory.

In Denver, despite the ups & downs of the rest of the game, at the end, Ben Roethlisberger looked prepared to tie the game… only to throw a pick six. In Oakland, towards the end of the game, Pittsburgh’s offense sputtered, while its defense simultaneously allowed the Raiders to score on their final five possessions… with nary a game-changing play during that final stretch. And, in Tennessee, well, it was a heart-breaking, last-second, game-winning field goal by the Titans.

Simply, all three of these losses could have been avoided, with one play.

I know, I know: I have heard time & time again that the course of a game has many twists & turns, and that one play can not decide a game… but, think about all of the following plays, which could have made a difference, in the Tennessee game.

-Big Ben misses Emmanuel Sanders. With all of the momentum, and the Steelers facing a third & eight at the Tennessee 34-yard line, Big Ben misses an open Manny Sanders, and the Steelers have to settle for a field goal. If the Steelers convert that third down, there is a realistic possibility that they seal the game, by driving down for a touchdown, and thus, going up by eleven points. Or, the worst case, when the Steelers finally do kick that field goal, another three minutes would have been taken off of the clock, reducing the amount of time that the Titans have for a comeback (to about five minutes).

-Keenan Lewis has an interception bounce off of his chest. On the second play of the ensuing Tennessee drive, Keenan Lewis has an interception bounce off of his chest, at about the Tennessee 40-yard line. Even if he does not run it back for a pick six, the Steelers would have already have been close to field goal range. And, obviously, that turnover would have delayed (if not nullified) the Tennessee touchdown that “actually” came at the end of that drive. Speaking of which…

-Ike Taylor plays hot & cold/Kenny Britt bobbles, but catches a touchdown Ike essentially allowed the Titans to make this comeback. There was the pass interference call, which was followed by a great pass break up by Ike, which was followed by Ike “causing” Britt to bobble the ball (which Britt eventually wrangled in). Simply, Britt made the “one play”, while Ike did not.

-Big Ben scrambles & almost hits Heath Miller With about a minute left, on a critical third & seven, the Titans send seemingly everyone after Big Ben. Somehow, as he always does, Big Ben eludes the pass-rush, and across his body, gets a ball within three yards of a wide open Heath Miller. Simply, the fact that Ben even got a pass off, let alone threw it anywhere near Heath Miller is amazing. Alas, it just was not close enough. By the way, since the Titans had sent so many players into the backfield, if Heath catches that ball, not only is it a first down, but it very well might have been a touchdown.

-Suisham gets 53 yards of a 54 yard kick Shaun Suisham kicks what appears (to me) to be the game-leading field goal… only to have it fall one yard short.

Let us go back about thirty minutes, for one more…

-Big Ben throws an interception before the half; Tennessee scores a field goal I know that there was an entire half left to play, in order to overcome this mistake, but it was significant. Not only did the turnover eliminate any chance at a chip-shot field goal, the Steelers left time on the clock (which they could have run out, if not for the turnover)… and the Titans turned around and scored a field goal of their own. This is a six-point swing. [Note: It was a good throw, but a better play by the cornerback. Nine times out if ten, Antonio Brown comes down with a reception. Alas, this was the tenth time.]

Summation: Again, if any one of those plays is made, then the outcome is considerably different. Instead, the Steelers had to tie their hopes to a long field goal. Sure, the Steelers had other options (punt, go for it on fourth down), but the game NEVER should have come down to that decision; the game should have been won earlier.

And, truthfully, if the history of this current season is any indicator, either of those other two options (punt, go for it) would have failed, as well. The punter would have been too close to pin Tennessee deep (i.e. it probably would have been a touchback). Thus, going for it makes just as much sense… but, we all “know” that going for it would have resulted in a Big Ben sack. Why? With three of Pittsburgh’s offensive linemen out, the Titans were going to go for broke (send everyone). More importantly, considering that Ben had missed Sanders on the previous drive (as mentioned earlier), as well as the interception that Ben had thrown at the end of the half… well… it seems like Ben (as well as everyone else on the Steelers) is just a little bit “off” this year.

So again, it should never have come down to that one play… because, sometimes, that one play can make you a champion (the 1990 Giants), and that same play can ruin your season (Scott Norwood). Alas, the Steelers are currently smack dab in the middle of dealing with a whole lot of the latter.