Yeah, I’m late again. I’m sure Steeler Nation saw Monday Night Football. And if you didn’t, well, I feel sorry for you. What happened last night will be remembered for a long long time.
Not since the Charlie Batch Game have the Pittsburgh Steelers pulled off such a thrilling last second victory. Except last night, the Steelers defeated the San Diego Chargers on a last second touchdown from Le’Veon Bell. What’s more, if Bell had been stopped short, the game would’ve been over and the Steelers would’ve lost. There was literally no time left.
Credit Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley for having balls the size of California’s state debt.
The play was pretty well designed actually. Bell, in the Wildcat, was clearly supposed to take the snap and dive over our best lineman (David DeCastro) into the end zone. Theoretically the entire thing shouldn’t take more than 4 seconds – although seeing as 18 mysteriously disappeared because the San Diego clock operator is a cheating putz, who knows – as long as Bell doesn’t try to bounce it outside. Naturally, Bell tried to bounce it outside which made the play do or die.
San Diego played it about as well as they could. They clogged the lane and basically pushed DeCastro back into him. The Charger defender had Bell behind the goal line with his knee hitting around the 1 yard line. The only thing that saved the Steelers was Bell fell in a twisting type motion which kept his knee of the ground for the precious split second needed to break the plane. If he was ruled down, the time out the Steelers were saving would’ve remained in Tomlin’s back pocket along with those super special 2 point plays he kept saved when we could’ve used them last year.
We can talk about that final drive all day and not do it justice. Last week, Michael Vick played a strong first half and then wilted as the game went on. This week, Vick was brutally bad for 3 1/2 quarters to the point Jon Gruden made the insane suggestion to bring in Landry Jones. Even crazier, that idea didn’t seem all that bad to me. I’ve seen Jim Miller, Dennis Dixon, and even Kent Graham start for the Black and Gold and yesterday was shaping up to be the worst performance by a starting QB I can ever remember.
Bell was doing everything he could to keep the team in the game but at a certain point the numbers game catches up to you. Nobody, not even him, can run through 8 man stacked boxes. Either Vick was afraid to audible or Haley had zero confidence in him because they’d basically give up on drives with runs designed to fail. When Vick did attempt to throw, it was little dinky stuff. That is, when his passes weren’t sailing fifteen feet above or ahead of the intended receiver.
Then something clicked at the end of the game. On the second to last drive, Vick rolled out and hit Markus Wheaton for a 72 yard touchdown bomb that was as perfect a throw as you’ll see. A play drawn up by Ben Roethlisberger, by the way. On the final drive, it started with a nice throw and an even better catch by Darrius Heyward-Bey. Trying to get into field goal range, Vick finally tucked the ball and took off on his first scramble that netted 24 yards. Another laser beam over the middle to Heath Miller set them up for Bell’s heroics.
They say it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. By that criteria, Vick played a great game.
Of course, the Steelers had a chance to win only because of yet another outstanding defensive performance from Keith Butler‘s men. I really have no idea where this defense came from but you can’t keep making excuses for the other team being weak. At some point, you have to say our guys are actually pretty good. The defensive line duo of Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt left everything on the field, playing the last drive while literally running on fumes. Linebackers Sean Spence and Lawrence Timmons were tackling machines. Antwon Blake had an amazing 70 yard Pick Six, single-handedly keeping the Steelers in the game when it looked like they were about to fall inescapably behind.
Two sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception return for a touchdown is a pretty good day all things considered. Plus you gotta remember our offense was so bad with all the three and outs the defense was on the field nearly constantly. Even the greatest defense is going to break down if you keep them on the field for the whole game. Bottom line is we thought the offense was going to have to cover for our dicey defense and it turns out our D has bailed the team out time and time again this year.
We’re past the quarter mark of the 2015 season and the Steelers are 3-2. If not for a totally inept kicker, they’d by all rights be 4-1. Still, 3-2 is pretty damn good when you look at who we played, not having Bell the first two games, not having Ben the last two, not having a kicker for the first four… I have no idea where this season is going but I have to say thus far it’s been one helluva ride.