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The second-down pass to Martavis Bryant was a bit puzzling

The Steelers pulled out a 30-23 victory over Houston on Monday Night Football. The game had everything, including an exciting finish, and we can probably point to the incomplete pass to rookie Martavis Bryant with 3:54 left and the Texans totally out of timeouts as the reason why.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

If you're anything like me, I'll just bet your heart was right up there in your throat Monday night when the Steelers and Texans players were scrambling to pick up the hot potato that was the pigskin, following Houston kicker Randy Bullock's onside kick attempt with 1:31 left in the game.

The Texans had cut their deficit to 30-23, thanks to a one-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Arian Foster just a few seconds earlier. If they had been the lucky winners of that mad scramble, what appeared to be a certain Pittsburgh victory only minutes before could have caused everyone at Heinz Field to have flashbacks to the Buccaneers debacle just a few weeks earlier.

Thankfully, third-string tight end Michael Palmer somehow secured the football at the Steelers' 36 yard line and everyone let out a huge sigh of relief.

Of course, one has to wonder if forcing thousands of fans to suffer through such an anxious moment was even necessary.

With approximately five minutes and change left in the game, and Pittsburgh holding a 27-16 lead, safety Mike Mitchell finally made his mark by forcing a fumble that fellow safety Troy Polamalu recovered and advanced to the Texans' 39-yard line.

There was now 4:55 left in the game.

Over the course of the next two plays, the Steelers picked up a first down at the 28 and forced Houston to burn its final two timeouts in the process.

Conventional wisdom says to run the ball down the Texans' throat, right? On first down, the Steelers stuck to the script with a one-yard run by Le'Veon Bell. The play started with 4:38 left in the game, and by the time Ben Roethlisberger took his second down snap, there were only four minutes left. From there, two more runs by Bell seemed logical. Regardless of how many yards were gained over the next two downs, the game-clock would have been nearing two minutes. At that point, you send Shaun Suisham out to kick a 40-something-yard field goal, you have yourself a 30-16 lead and, more importantly, you give the Texans two minutes to score two touchdowns.

And, hey, maybe Bell (or even LeGarrette "blunt-force" Blount) picks up an additional first down, which would make Polamalu a two-way player, as he'd then come into the game on offense and assume his traditional position in the "Victory Formation."

But what did the Steelers do on second-and-nine with 4:00 remaining on a running clock and Houston totally helpless to stop it? Roethlisberger tried to hit rookie Martavis Bryant for a 27-yard touchdown pass. Sure, had it worked, the game would have been totally out of reach and we would all be writing "Martavis Bryant is the next Randy Moss" stories this whole week because that would have been his second touchdown of the night (and his career that so far has consisted of one game). Unfortunately, the pass was incomplete, and the Steelers faced a third-and-nine with 3:54 remaining on a temporarily suspended clock.

On  third down, after the Steelers picked up four yards on a pass from Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown, Suisham came in to kick a 40-yard field goal, and there was your 30-16 lead. However, there was still 3:09 left in the game and, four plays into the Texans' next drive, Fitzpatrick hit tight end Garrett Graham for 17 yards down to the Pittsburgh 17-yard line with 2:13 remaining (or approximately the time Suisham would have been kicking off had the Steelers stuck to the script).

And this isn't second-guessing because I was first-guessing the pass to Bryant as the football was flying through the air, and I didn't know who it was intended for and whether he was open or not.

Even Mike Tirico, ESPN's play-by-play man for Monday Night Football, expressed his displeasure with the call, stating, "I never understood why people do that in this situation." I might have his exact quote wrong but, nevertheless, the meaning is right.

Why do that there?

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about passing and love it when Roethlisberger puts up big numbers, but there's a time and a place for everything. With 4:00 left and an 11-point lead, that's not the time or the place.

Obviously, the decision there is being glossed over because Pittsburgh won but, make no mistake, a loss would have put that incomplete pass to Bryant under a huge microscope.

It might seem like nitpicking after a thrilling victory, but when you remember everything that transpired near the end of the Tampa game in Week 4, as well as the decision to allow Brown to extend his somewhat obscure record in the waning moments of the Jaguars win the following week, it kind of makes you wonder.

And it's certainly something worth mentioning, even after a win.