How the Steelers Made the Playoffs
A Tale of No Offense.
People are asking how the Steelers made the playoffs. This team wasn’t supposed to be here. Ben was washed. Devin Bush was struggling. The defense couldn’t stop the run. The offense has been ranked in the bottom half of the league in almost all metrics except one: turnovers. As bad as the offense was struggling, they retained their ability to hold onto the football. Chris Boswell was kicking a solid 90% and they usually managed to get field goals when Big Ben’s arm was failing.
The team ambled through the season, getting a tie against the Lions and losing a close game to the Chargers. The 10-41 mid-season beating by the upstart Bengals was the low point; the point in the movie where the hero digs deep and finds a different gear. The team tapped into the power of Steelers culture, a long tenured coach, and the will to win games through sheer unstoppable defense.
A Season Defining Win
The game against the Titans in week 15 was a classic Steelers performance. The final score was 19-13. Big Ben had one touchdown. Chris Boswell had 4 field goals. The defense had 4 forced fumbles, 7 sacks and 1 interception. Something ignited in the team that weekend and they sensed a change in the air. They beat a Covid and injury-ravaged Browns team and the Steelers faithful witnessed a tearful Big Ben realizing he might have played his last professional football game at Heinz field. In the next game he completed the season sweep on a Ravens team missing Lamar Jackson. Steelers nation rejoiced. Ben looked proud, but sheltered a hint of sadness behind his eyes. He knew that in order to make the playoffs, a historically bad Jaguars had to beat Johnathan Taylor and the intimidating Colts defense.
Miracles and Disasters
Beyond all odds, the Jaguars absolutely embarrassed the Colts as Carson Wentz had an epic meltdown under pressure. Trevor Lawrence was unleashed against a Colts team that couldn’t stop giving him the ball. Steelers playoff ball had been unlocked, but still hinged upon the game happening in Las Vegas. If the Chargers and Raiders tied, then the Steelers would be kept out of the playoffs. But teams in football never tie right? It happens once or twice a season out of 544 games. That’s a 0.004% chance…right.?
It got so close to a tie, even Chris Collinsworth was suggesting it was the right idea. Not just funny, or novel, or wild, but a strategically sound idea. It was dumb not to kneel for tie. It was the final minute of overtime and the Raiders were 5 or 10 yards out of field goal range. It was 3rd down. A field goal could get blocked and returned for a game-ending score. But the Raiders prevailed. They ran for a glorious 1st down and won the game with a chip-shot field goal. The Steelers had avoided disaster and now face the Chiefs in the 1st round of the NFL Playoffs.
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