For once in my career, I have come away from a game where words just don’t describe what I have seen. I guess it’s not so much that there aren’t words to describe the 27-24 New England Patriots win over the Pittsburgh Steelers from a soggy Heinz Field, but few words in the Webster Dictionary would do justice to what turned out to be an epic game.
No, it’s not a lack of choices, but the ability to splice them together in an effort to make sense of all that transpired in what was an awesome regular-season tilt. The first 58-minutes packed in plenty to talk about, but the final 2:08 is exactly why sports are so fun. It’s their ability to grab you by the collar and wring you around and around until you are utterly exhausted over the ride.
I’ll skip to the good stuff and give you the real skinny on why the Black-and-gold lost this Week 15 game.
It wasn’t because of the GOAT.
It wasn’t because Tony Corrente had the Patriots at -2.
It wasn’t because Antonio Brown was lost due to a partially torn calf muscle.
It wasn’t because of Gronk.
And it wasn’t because the Patriots were better than the Steelers.
No, Steelers fans, there is only one reason. One glaring, alarming, easy to spot, but hard to swallow, fact as to why this team took loss number three on the year.
He will be a first ballot hall of famer. He has led the Steelers to 43 4th quarter comebacks, 6th best all-time. He was won 2 Super Bowl trophies while passing for over 50,000 yards, 8th all-time, and not to mention after last week’s 506-yard effort vs. Baltimore, the only quarterback in the history of the league to have three games where he passed for over 500-yards.
The drive vs. Arizona in Super Bowl 43 that ended with his whipping a ball on a frozen rope into triple coverage and where only Santonio Holmes could grab it to win. The 14-game winning streak to start his NFL career. The countless defenders he’s thrown off of him that led to a completion, and eventual scores. For all of the greatness that has been Ben Roethlisberger in his 14th NFL campaign, I can say this for certain, and sleep easy doing so.
Roethlisberger cost the Steelers a victory vs. the Patriots.
Chew on that and know it to be true. Much like Luke Skywalker denied at first, but eventually came around to the reality of what faced him despite not wanting to believe who his father was, I’m here to tell you Ben Roethlisberger cost the Steelers more than a game Sunday.
If you’re as decorated and as accomplished a player as Roethlisberger is, you simply don’t try to force a ball into that small a window and to a receiver like Eli Rogers, knowing you can still kick a field goal to tie the game and force overtime at home.
Take away the fact that, by the letter of the rule, the refs had to review the Jesse James TD catch two plays earlier. I watched the play five times. It’s clearly a touchdown—but not in the NFL, or at least not by the definition of the rule currently in place.
I didn’t say I enjoyed the call. Nor did I say it was fair. It’s simply what it is by the letter of the rule. We don’t like it because it went against the team we root for. Do I think the rule should be modified? Yeah, sure. Once James crossed the goal line without contact it should be a score.
But it’s not.
And the rule says possession must be complete through the process of the catch and survive going to the ground, whatever the hell that means.
Blame the GOAT and Gronk for being so freaking good. For as quiet as his first half was, Rob Gronkowski was a battering ram in the second half, mostly toying with Steelers’ safety Sean Davis on his way to 135-yards in the final 30 minutes, 168 overall, and a 2-point conversion where he all but humiliated Davis after what was an uncomfortably easy grab.
Oh and the GOAT...well he engineered the 52nd fourth-quarter comeback of his career— second all-time on said list.
None of that is why the Steelers lost.
In classic Roethlisberger fashion after the game, he told the wretched media that he wanted to spike the ball on 3rd-and-goal, but was told not to in his headset. In other words, Todd Haley was to blame for what transpired with five seconds to go and probably losing the top seed in the upcoming AFC playoffs.
Ben acknowledged (after throwing his OC under a very big bus) that he was to blame for the loss.
Place the blame where you want, Steelers fans. But make sure you place it at the feet of where it belongs. And that would be at the feet of your quarterback. Roethlisberger cost his team Sunday, and it’s a loss they’ll look back at and wonder what might have been if they had won.
This loss is on Roethlisberger and nothing else comes close.
John Phillips is a veteran of sports-talk radio, TV and print coverage of sports in Pittsburgh for nearly three decades. He’s been waxing on about the Steelers for BTSC since 2014. Follow JP on Facebook if you can find him.