It’s that time of year again, the time when I talk about my favorite Steelers win from the previous season.
The particular previous season I’m talking about is 2018, when Pittsburgh finished 9-6-1 and missed out on the playoffs by a half of a game. That’s right, the Steelers didn’t make the playoffs, which meant they didn’t win the Super Bowl. Therefore, how can any respectable supporter of the team have an actual favorite win?
It’s simple: some victory had to be my favorite, right? It’s not like I wasn’t enjoying these games as they were taking place. One had to stand out. One win had to feel the most special of them all.
The exciting win over the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football—the night Vance McDonald became “Vanimal” after his monster stiff-arm of Chris Conte during a 75-yard touchdown catch and run—was awesome (it was also Pittsburgh’s first victory after an 0-1-1 start). And it’s always sweet when Pittsburgh goes into M&T Bank Stadium and knocks off the Ravens (this happened on November 4).
It’s pretty cool to see your team explode on offense, which the Steelers did during a 52-21 victory over the Panthers at Heinz Field on Thursday Night Football.
Roaring back from a 16-0 fourth quarter deficit to beat those cocky Jaguars on November 18 was truly gratifying. This victory may have actually made it to the top of my list. Unfortunately, the Steelers lost their next three games and four of their next five—a stretch of futility that ultimately cost them the AFC North title and a spot in the postseason. Therefore, whatever great feelings that victory gave me were quickly erased from my memory. Same for the 17-10 victory over those Patriots in the third-to-last game of the season. Yes, while any victory over New England is great, it just doesn’t mean much when it doesn’t lead to bigger and better things.
So what was my favorite victory of the 2018 regular season? If you read the title of this article, you know it was the heart-stopping 28-21 victory over the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 14.
Pittsburgh entered the afternoon with a 2-2-1 record after a rather rocky start that included an embarrassing road tie with the Browns in Week 1 and a rather blah 26-14 home loss to the Ravens on Sunday Night Football in Week 4.
Despite that aforementioned win over Tampa Bay and an impressive 41-17 blow-out victory against the Falcons in Week 5, the Steelers really hadn’t established themselves as playoff contenders when they arrived in Cincinnati to take on a 4-1 Bengals team.
After the Bengals took a 7-0 lead on a Tyler Boyd touchdown pass from Andy Dalton, Pittsburgh answered with two one-yard touchdown runs by James Conner, with the second being set up by an awesome 29-yard combat catch by JuJu Smith-Schuster in-which he out-fought a Cincinnati defender and came down with the football at the one-yard line.
The Bengals tied the score just before halftime, when Dalton and Boyd hooked up for a second time.
The Steelers dominated the game in the second half, at least in terms of yardage and time of possession. As for the scoreboard, not so much. Despite taking the play to the Bengals after halftime, Pittsburgh could only muster two Chris Boswell field goals and held a 20-14 lead with 3:35 remaining in the game.
Things looked kind of bleak after the Bengals took their first lead since early in the first period on a four-yard touchdown run by Joe Mixon with just 1:18 left in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 21-20, could the Steelers get in field goal range, and if they did, would the struggling kicker actually have the confidence to come through in the clutch?
This is what I was thinking after the offense advanced the football down to the Bengals 31-yard line with just 15 seconds left.
With only one timeout remaining, what strategy would the offense employ? How about a display of the very best chemistry between quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and receiver Antonio Brown. Noticing that the middle of the field was open, Roethlisberger connected with Brown on a short pass, and the receiver did what he almost always did at the end of games—he came through in the clutch. Yes, with the help of a block (Bengals fans were screaming “Pick!”) by receiver Justin Hunter, Brown raced untouched to the end zone to give the Steelers a 26-21 lead with 10 seconds left.
Roethlisberger connected with Smith-Schuster for the two-point conversion, and the Steelers escaped with a 28-21 victory, their sixth-straight at Paul Brown Stadium.
Speaking of which, just days before the game, I wrote one of those pot-stirring articles about how there was no way the Steelers were going to lose in Cincinnati.
Naturally, I received a few not so nice emails and Tweets from Bengals fans, assuring me that I would be eating my words. Even some Steelers fans were a little less than pleased with my prediction (I guess because of my ability to anger the football gods).
Anyway, I’ll never know the answer to this question, but I wonder how many Bengals fans were about to press “send” on some trash-talking emails right before Brown reached pay-dirt?
Oh well, that win over the Bengals had just about all a Steelers fan could ask for—including a last-second finish.
Heck, this was even months before Antonio Brown used the scorched Earth method to get himself traded away.
It was truly a great day.