The Steelers 29-27 victory over the Bears at Heinz Field on Monday Night Football felt an awful lot like their 23-20 overtime win against the Seahawks at Heinz Field on Sunday Night Football right before the bye.
The 14-0 lead that ultimately evaporated, that’s why. Only, this time, Pittsburgh had to come from behind in the waning seconds. The Steelers needed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to actually lead a game-winning drive in the final two minutes. That occurred after Bears rookie quarterback, Justin Fields, the apparent apple of head coach Mike Tomlin’s eye leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, put his newbie struggles on hold long enough to not only have a decent night but also lead Chicago on a seven-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a perfect 16-yard touchdown pass to receiver Darnell Mooney with 1:46 left in regulation.
Roethlisberger's heroics on Pittsburgh’s final drive—heroics that included a 22-yard pass to receiver Diontae Johnson, a 13-yard strike to tight end Pat Freiermuth and a short scramble that was inches away from allowing the offense to run down the rest of the game clock—paved the way for Chris Boswell’s 40-yard field goal that put the good guys ahead with 26 seconds remaining.
Boswell had himself a night. He kicked two field goals from 50-plus (54 yards and 52 yards, respectively), recovered a fumble on a kickoff that was forced by James Pierre, and, of course, booted the game-winner. But Boswell could have easily been a goat thanks to a missed extra point following a 10-yard touchdown catch by Freiermuth (his second touchdown of the game) late in the third quarter. If not for the missed extra point, Boswell would have been kicking his game-winning field goal during a tie and not during a one-point deficit.
As for Ray-Ray McCloud, he probably can’t escape the goat horns even with a Steelers win. It’s hard to do that when you fumble a punt with six-plus minutes remaining and your team ahead by 10 points. It’s even worse when the opposition returns the fumble 25 yards for a touchdown.
Boswell would have no doubt survived a loss due to his missed extra point, but it’s unsure as to whether or not McCloud would have escaped the waiver wire afterward.
He still may not; that's how angry Tomlin appeared to be when he addressed McCloud’s gaffe at his postgame press conference Monday night.
Oh well. All was well that ended well. I thought Roethlisberger looked as good as he has all year. It wasn’t a great night for the offense, but it was okay. What I liked was how precise Roethlisberger was with several of his throws, including a great back-shoulder pass to Johnson. I loved how Roethlisberger moved around in the pocket in spite of being an old man and all. The ground game was less than okay, but rookie running back Najee Harris did manage 22 carries despite only tallying 62 yards. That showed a commitment to stick with the run even when it wasn’t exactly effective.
As for the defense, it showed up again. T.J. Watt posted three sacks. Cam Heyward continued to dominate the line of scrimmage and even set up one of Pittsburgh’s touchdowns by snatching a Fields pass right out of the air with his big mitts.
If not for the McCloud fumble, this is just a ho-hum win over a supposedly inferior opponent. But it’s hard for these Steelers to do anything ho-hum. They’re just not made that way.
At the end of the day, it wasn’t a pretty win for the Steelers, but let’s be honest, how many of them will be before the year is out?
The Steelers may not be perfect, but they do seem to have the perfect mindset for finding ways to win even when they’re doing their darndest to lose.