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Choosing the Steelers best game of 2021: The first game or the last game

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

Syndication: Democrat and Chronicle JAMIE GERMANO/ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE / 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 second semifinal matchup features the opening upset in Week 1 in Buffalo and the Week 18 OT game in Baltimore.


Week 1 vs. the Buffalo Bills: 23-16

Recap:

The Steelers started off the 2021 season by traveling to Buffalo as 6.5-point underdogs. The game did not start off on the right foot after a 75-yard return on the opening kick off by Isaiah McKenzie set the Bills up at the Steelers 24-yard line. But the defense dug in and did not allow a first down and the Bills had to settle for a 37-yard field goal to open the game 3-0.

After a drive by each team which approached midfield but could not push any further resulting in a punt, the teams again exchanged three andouts just before the end of the first quarter. The punt fest continued into the second quarter as the streak of seven straight possessions ending in a punt was ended when T.J. Watt had a strip sack of Josh Allen recovered by Cameron Heyward at their own 45-yard line.

Despite moving into Bills territory on the first play of the drive, the very next play saw a Ben Roethlisberger sack and the Steelers were forced to punt yet again with just over six minutes remaining in the second quarter. The Buffalo Bills then put together a methodical drive which took over five and a half minutes and ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis with 0:22 left in the first half and sent the teams to the locker room with a 10-0 score.

The Steelers begin the third quarter with a nice drive over their own which lasted four and a half minutes and was highlighted by back-to-back to plays of 19 yards to Eric Ebron and 22 yards to Chase Claypool. Unfortunately, the drive stalled at the Buffalo 6-yard line and the Steelers got on the board for the first time with a 24-yard Chris Boswell field goal to make the score 10–3.

Buffalo responded with a significant drive of their own which reached the Steelers 35-yard line. Rather than attempting a long field goal, the Bills went for it on fourth and eighth but the pass was defended by Cameron Sutton.

The Steelers responded by once again moving the ball deep into Buffalo territory aided by a 24-yard pass to Pat Freiermuth and a 25-yard run by Chase Claypool. Once again the Steelers came up short at the Buffalo 2-yard line and ended with a 20-yard Chris Boswell field goal to push the score of 10-6 with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The Bills reached midfield for the start of the fourth quarter and were faced with a fourth and one at the Steelers 41-yard line. Once again going for it, Cameron Sutton blew up the play in the backfield for a 7-yard loss and the Steelers took over at their own 48-yard line. Five plays later, Ben Roethlisberger connected on a fantastic catch by Diontae Johnson in the corner of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown and the Steelers saw their first lead of the season at 13-10.

With the Steelers defense digging in and not allowing a first down, Josh Allen was sacked by Cameron Heyward on third and six forcing what many expected to be another Buffalo punt. Although the kick left the foot of Matt Haack, it did not travel far before being blocked by Miles Killebrew and returned for a touchdown by Ulysees Gilbert III. Chris Boswell kicked the extra point with 9:45 left in the game and the Steelers held a 20-10 lead.

The Bills took another four minutes off the clock on the next drive which stalled inside the Steelers 10-yard line and they had to settle for a 25-yard field goal to cut the lead to one score at 20-13.

The Steelers responded by running two and a half minutes off the clock and tacking on a 45-yard field goal by Chris Boswell to push the lead back to 10 points. Taking the field with 2:42 remaining in the game, the Bills moved the ball into the red zone with just under a minute remaining. After a holding penalty pushed the Bills from the Steelers 14-yard line back to the 24, Buffalo chose to kick the field goal on first down in order to leave enough time for another score if they could be successful with an onside kick. With 0:46 left in the game, JuJu Smith-Schuster was able to recover the onside kick attempt and after two kneel downs the Steelers emerged from Buffalo with a 23-16 victory.

Highlights:

View highlights of the Week 1 victory over the Bills via the NFL YouTube channel HERE.


Week 18 vs. the Baltimore Ravens: 16-13 (OT)

Recap:

The Steelers entered the final week of the season coming off an emotional win in Ben Roethlisberger‘s last game at Heinz field the previous week. Going into Baltimore as 3.5-point underdogs despite Lamar Jackson not playing, the Steelers needed a victory and a lot of help in order to qualify for the 2021 postseason.

After the Ravens won the toss and deferred, the Steelers had their typical slow start and went three and out on their opening position. Only allowing one first down on defense, The Ravens faced a second and eight from their own 46-yard line when a bad snap was recovered by quarterback Tyler Huntley only for him to have the ball punched out by T.J. Watt and recovered by Henry Mondeaux.

Despite their great field position by starting at the ravens 39 yard line, the Steelers lined up to go for it on fourth and one at the Ravens 5-yard line only for Benny Snell to get caught leaning forward too soon and was called for a false start. The Steelers settled for 28-yard Chris Boswell field goal to open up the scoring.

The next two positions saw the teams trading interceptions with Terrell Edmunds picking off Tyler Huntley followed by Ben Roethlisberger being intercepted by Geno Stone.

On the first play of the second quarter, the Steelers held a scrambling Tyler Huntley to only two yards on a third and four and had apparently forced a Ravens punt from the Steelers 45-yard line. But to the surprise of few, the Ravens went for a fake and the pass fell incomplete and the Steelers took over with decent field position.

With Najee Harris leaving the game early in the first quarter with an injury, although he did return in the fourth quarter, the Steelers offense sputtered and squandered their opportunity with a three and out. The Ravens responded with their own drive which did not yield a first down and the two teams traded an additional five punts to take the clock down inside the two minute warning of the first half.

Set up with great field position when the Steelers failed to gain a yard on a drive that started at their own 7-yard line and managed a 33-yard punt out of bounds, the Ravens began almost in field goal range at their own 40 yard line. Within to plays Baltimore reached the Steelers red zone for the first time on the day but the defense held inside of their own 10-yard line and the Ravens settled for a 24-yard field goal to tie the score at 3-3 with just seconds left in the first half.

After being held in check the entire afternoon, the Ravens offense started the second half by extending the opening drive with a Tyler Huntley scramble on third and six. Failing to get the three and out, the Steelers gave up a 10-yard run to Latavius Murray followed by a 46-yard touchdown run on the next play to give Baltimore their first lead of the day at 10-3.

The Steelers responded and moved the ball to the edge of the Ravens red zone but settled for another Chris Boswell field goal to cut the lead to 10–6.

After the teams traded three and outs, the Ravens started their next drive at their own 25-yard line but quickly moved into Steelers territory with back-to-back runs of more than 20 yards by Latavius Murray.

The Ravens drive continued into the fourth quarter where they found themselves with a second and seven at the Steelers 12-yard line. But on the first pass attempt of the drive, Cam Sutton came up with the interception in the end zone to give the Steelers the ball at the 20-yard line.

After moving the ball across midfield, a personal foul penalty on Joe Haeg pushed the Steelers back into their own territory and they punted the ball yet again to the Ravens. Forcing another three and out, the Steelers got a 23-yard punt return from Ray-Ray McCloud to set them up at midfield with just over eight minutes left in the game.

Facing a thurd and nine on the ravens 39 yard line, Ben Roethlisberger connected with a 20-yard gain to Ray-Ray McCloud. Facing another third and six on the Ravens 15-yard line, Roethlisberger connected this time with Pat Freiermuth for 11 yards. With just under three minutes remaining in the game, the Steelers regained lead with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Chase Claypool, pushing the score to 13–10.

Getting a decent kick return to their own 32-yard line, the Ravens moved into long field goal range after a 21-yard scramble from Tyler Huntley. Gaining eight more yards over the next three plays to get a little closer, Justin Tucker tied the game at 13-13 with a 46-yard field goal with 1:17 remaining.

With the Jacksonville Jaguars coming through with the unthinkable and knocking out the Indianapolis Colts, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a much easier path to the postseason should they come through with a victory. But only moving the ball 19 yards, the Steelers opted not to go for it on fourth and one at their own 44-yard line and forced the Ravens to move the length of the field in less than 40 seconds. Converting only one play before three incompletions, the Ravens were forced to punt with seconds left in the game and the Steelers took a knee to send the contest to overtime.

Winning the coin toss again, the Ravens moved the ball close to midfield before the Steelers defense held firm and forced a punt which gave them the ball at their 17-yard line. Needing any type of score to end the game, the Steelers were faced with a third and seventh at their own 31 yard line when Ben Roethlisberger connected on a 14-yard pass to Pat Freiermuth. Facing another third and long, this time third and nine at their own 46, Roethlisberger connected with Diontae Johnson for 11 yards and moved the ball across midfield. After failing to convert on a third and eight at the Ravens 41-yard line, the Steelers opted to go for it on fourth down with 2:28 remaining in overtime and Ben Roethlisberger connected with Ray-Ray McCloud for a 10-yard gain.

Already in long field goal range, the Steelers got an extra 15 yards two plays later on a Najee Harris run taking the ball inside the red zone. After Ben Roethlisberger took a knee to position the ball in a better spot, Chris Boswell connected on the 36-yard field goal to win the game with 2:00 remaining in overtime.

View highlights of the Steelers Week 18 victory over the Ravens 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.

NOTE: Voting time is limited as the final matchup is tomorrow.

Poll

Which game was the better Steelers game in 2021?

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    Week 1 at Buffalo (23-16)
    (92 votes)
  • 51%
    Week 18 at Baltimore (16-13 in OT)
    (96 votes)
188 votes total Vote Now

There is still time to vote in the other semifinal matchup as well:

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