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Choosing the Steelers best game of 2021: Taking down #1 or a legendary sendoff

It’s a bracket-style showdown to decide which game from the 2021 season was the best performance by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Syndication: The Tennessean George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 offseason is rolling into the last week before the dog days of summer kick in. With players taking the practice field fresh on our mind and the anticipation towards the fall continues to grow, there have been several moments from the 2021 season which has fallen out of some of our memories. But if we were to look back at the Steelers season, the final one for future-Hall-of-Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, what was the best game for the Steelers?

Rather than simply answer the question, we have plenty of time to come to this decision. Instead of throwing out all the nominees and leave one big poll, these games are going to face off in a bracket-style contests to see which one BTSC chooses as the best Steelers game of 2021.

First, I’m specifically using the term best and not defining it in any way for the benefit of everyone involved. Perhaps what is the best for one doesn’t need to be what the best is for another. Maybe one game someone attended in person and appreciates it even more while another game saw a specific great play from a favorite player. Maybe one fan enjoys games that come down to the wire and the Steelers pull it off, while others feel much better when the Steelers have a little bit more of a cushion. Exactly what you feel is best is completely up to you.

To set up how this will work, we are only going to include Steelers victories from the 2021 season. Can we really say that their best game came in a loss or a tie? Rather than waste our time throwing those into the mix, we’re going to stick with the nine wins from the Steelers 2021 campaign.

But with nine games comes an uneven bracket. For this reason, there was one play-in game, featured last Friday, in order to get down to eight contests and a nice even bracket. I seeded the games without putting much thought into it simply to give matchups. I also tweaked a couple things to give a more intriguing face off between games, but not enough to make it overwhelmingly different.

Continuing on, BTSC will be deciding a winner to move on to the finals. Make sure you vote in the poll at the bottom of the article to help determine which game moves on to the next round.

The first semifinal matchup features taking down the #1 seed in the AFC in Week 15 and Ben Roethlisberger’s Heinz Field farewell in Week 17.


Week 15 vs. the Tennessee Titans: 19-13

Recap:

After an extended break from the Thursday night matchup the previous week, the Pittsburgh Steelers were 6-6-1 when they hosted the 9-4 Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field in Week 15.

After exchanging punts to start the game, the Steelers went three and out on their second possession only to see the Titans return the kick for 55 yards and have a 10-yard penalty tacked on the end. Already in field goal position starting to drive at the 25-yard line, the Titans completed a third and eight at the Steelers 12-yard line and quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a 1-yard quarterback sneak to finish off the drive with seven points.

After another three and out by the Steelers, the Titans got good field possession near midfield after a 32-yard punt. The Titans moved the ball inside the Steelers 10-yard line but the drive stalled and they settled for a field goal and a 10-0 lead in the final minutes of the first quarter.

The Steelers managed one first down before having to punt yet again but got the ball right back three plays later when Arthur Maulet forced a fumble recovered by Minkah Fitzpatrick. Set up at the Tennessee 36-yard line, the Steelers moved the ball into the red zone only to settle for a Chris Boswell 36-yard field goal.

With 10:35 left in the second quarter, the Titans had a 20-play drive which ended with a 32-yard field goal with 0:21 left in the first half which would prove to be their last score of the game. The Steelers managed to move the ball 40 yards on three plays in 17 seconds to give Chris Boswell a 56-yard attempt to end the half. Unfortunately, the kick came up just short and the Titans held a 13-3 lead going into the half.

With three punts coming to start the second half, to by Tennessee and one by Pittsburgh, the Steelers were able to sustain a drive which was capped off with a Ben Roethlisberger quarterback sneak for the final rushing touchdown of his career.

Still trailing 13–10, the Steelers Joe Haden recovered a fumble giving the Steelers the ball at the Tennessee 41-yard line at the end of the third quarter. Taking the drive down all the way to the Tennessee 10-yard line, the Steelers had to settle for a 28-yard Chris Boswell field goal to tie the game a minute and a half into the fourth quarter.

The Titans moved the ball just across midfield on the next drive when on third and three Taco Charlton batted a Ryan Tannehill pass which was intercepted by Joe Schobert and returned 23 yards to the Tennessee 31-yard line. Although the Steelers didn’t gain a first down on the drive, they finished it off with a 46-yard Chris Boswell field goal and took their first lead the game 16-13 midway through the fourth quarter.

On the ensuing drive, after Ryan Tannehill rushed for 11 yards, Tennessee botched the snap and T.J. Watt pounced on the ball to give the Steelers another possession starting in Titans territory. Once again not gaining a first down, Chris Boswell‘s 48-yard field goal width 4:29 remaining in the game gave the Steelers a 19–13 lead.

The Tennessee Titans, starting at their own 25-yard line, crossed midfield in two plays. Facing a fourth and one at the Steelers 33-yard line, D’Onta Foreman managed just enough yardage to extend the drive. Taking the ball inside the Steelers red zone, Ryan Tannehill was sacked by Derek Tuszka on the strip sack in which Tennessee recovered the ball despite the fact they were called for holding on the play. After getting eight yards on third and 15, the Titans were forced to go for it on fourth and six at the Steelers 16-yard line with less than a minute remaining. On what looked to be a certain conversion on a pass to Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Joe Haden saved the day and made an excellent tackle by attacking the football to seal the victory for the Steelers.

Highlights:

View highlights of the Week 15 victory over the Titans via the NFL YouTube channel HERE.


Week 17 vs. the Cleveland Browns: 26-14

Recap:

The Pittsburgh Steelers came into their final game at Heinz Field of the 2021 season with a record of 7-7-1 for a Monday night matchup against the 7-8 Cleveland Browns. Not only would the loser be eliminated from playoff contention, it was Ben Roethlisberger‘s final home game of his illustrious Steelers career.

After the first three drives of the game, two by the Steelers and one by the Browns, did not cross midfield, Cleveland moved into Pittsburgh territory on the first play of their second drive after a 32-yard Nick Chubb run. But on fourth and seven from the Steelers 38, Cam Heyward knocked down Baker Mayfield‘s pass and Steelers took over on downs. Moving in the Cleveland territory and just out of Chris Boswell field goal range, the Steelers attempted a fourth and five from the Cleveland 36 with less than a minute to go on the quarter but the pass feel incomplete.

The first play of the second quarter saw a Cleveland punt as T.J. Watt finished the first stanza with one of his four sacks on the night. The Steelers next drive, aided by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty when Jadeveon Clowney threw Chase Claypool’s shoe, was finished off with a 5-yard touchdown to Diontae Johnson and the Steelers took a 7-0 lead.

After trading three and outs, the Browns took over possession at their own 26-yard line only for the first play the drive to see an Ahkello Witherspoon interception of Baker Mayfield. Taking over at the Cleveland 43, the Steelers possessed the ball nearly four minutes but came up short once getting inside the 5-yard line and settled for 22-yard Chris Boswell field goal to push their lead to 10-0.

Cleveland moved the ball down the field on their next position only to be pushed out of field-goal range on another third down sack by T.J. Watt. Taking over at their own 19-yard line with 0:34 left in the half, the Steelers attempted to move the ball into field goal range but the half ended with a Ben Roethlisberger interception.

The second half began with another Browns three and out with a third-down sack of Baker Mayfield, this time by Cameron Heyward. The Steelers saw a 30-yard run by Najee Harris move the ball across midfield but the Steelers once again had to settle for a field goal in the red zone when Chris Boswell connected from 30 yards out and pushed the lead to 13-0.

When the Browns next position once again came up short on a third-down sack by T.J. Watt, the Steelers took over at their own 5-yard line. Getting a little bit of wiggle room with rushes of three and four yards by Najee Harris, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked in his own 4-yard line and Corliss Waitman’s 53-yard punt was returned 9 yards giving the Browns possession in Steelers territory. After a 39-yard completion on the first play of the drive, the Browns finished it off with a Baker Mayfield pass to David Njoku to cut the lead to 13-7.

After a second straight three and out by the Steelers, the final play of the third-quarter was much like that of the first quarter with Baker Mayfield being sacked, this time by Alex Highsmith. After getting one first down, the Browns saw a 21-yard punt out of bounds and the Steelers took over at their own 43-yard line. Moving the ball into Cleveland territory, Chris Boswell connected for a 50-yard field goal to push the Steelers lead to 16-7 with less than 10 minutes to play.

After taking over on their own 25-yard line on the ensuing kickoff, the Browns lost 20 yards on the drive and were forced to kick from their own 5-yard line. With a 46-yard punt and a 14-yard return by Ray-Ray McCloud, the Steelers were set up at the Cleveland 37-yard line. After Najee Harris gave the Steelers seven yards in the first two rushing plays, the Steelers couldn’t convert on third down and settled for a 48-yard Chris Boswell field goal for a 19-7 lead with just under six minutes left.

After back-to-back sacks by T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, the Browns were faced with a fourth and 19 from their own 25 yard line but were bailed out on a pass interference call against Joe Haden. Getting the assistance of another pass interference call at the goal line, the Browns ultimately scored a 1-yard touchdown pass to Harrison Bryant with 1:10 left in the game pushing the score to 19-14.

After Minkah Fitzpatrick recovered the onside kick, the Steelers were looking to run the ball to run out the clock. After back-to-back 4-yard rushes by Najee Harris, his third and two attempt with one minute remaining in the game broke free of the line of scrimmage and Harris scampered to the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown pushing the score to 26–14. With 0:15 remaining in the game, a Baker Mayfield pass was intercepted by Tre Norwood, giving Ben Roethlisberger one last play in victory formation at Heinz Field in his final home game.

Highlights:

View highlights of the Week 17 victory over the Browns via the NFL YouTube channel HERE.


So there are the two games highlighted in this semifinal matchup to determine the Steelers best game of the 2021 season. Is there something else that stands out to you from either of these games? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Poll

Which game was the better Steelers game in 2021?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Week 15 vs. Tennessee (19-13)
    (73 votes)
  • 77%
    Week 17 vs. Cleveland (26-14)
    (249 votes)
322 votes total Vote Now