As I watched the early portions of the second half of the Steelers game against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on Monday night, I wondered who, if anyone, would emerge as a hero and help lead the team back from a 17-3 hole.
Little did I know it would be William Jackson who would come to the rescue—a Bengals cornerback that, just 18 months prior, had won the hearts of many in Steelers Nation leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft and was the most-desired potential selection.
Facing a second down from the Cincinnati 35, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger dropped back to pass, and then checked down to running back Le'Veon Bell, who proceeded to get as many yards as he could before being shoved out of bounds by either pursuing linebacker Jordan Evans, or Jackson, who was waiting around the 20 to clean up the play....or so Evans thought.
Or was it Jackson who thought Evans would clean things up?
Anyway, right as Evans seemed about to pass the shoving baton to Jackson, Jackson did the bullfighting "Ole!" move and simply stepped aside, allowing Bell to continue his journey to pay-dirt.
I don't know about you, but after Bell scored, I was half-expecting Jackson to hit Evans with the old Hulk Hogan leg drop, and then rip off his Bengals jersey to reveal black-and-gold colors underneath.
Obviously, there was no conspiracy or hush-hush deal between Jackson and Steelers GM Kevin Colbert to leave his current team for the one that maybe would have drafted him had he not been snatched up just one pick earlier.
Instead, there was a whole lot of incompetence that took place between Jackson and Evans, as each thought the other one would do the simple task of nudging Bell out of bounds, something that, given how close Bell came to doing that on his own, wouldn't have taken much effort.
And that one play basically sums up why the Bengals haven't won a playoff game since my senior year of high school (1991), and won't again this year because their latest snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory effort against Pittsburgh on Monday dropped them to 5-7 and all but out of the postseason race.
The Steelers’ comeback actually started late in the first half, after Cincinnati had taken a 17-0 lead on a touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green with just 31 seconds left in the second quarter.
From their own 17, and with only 26 seconds remaining before halftime, the Steelers might have been content to run out the clock.
But then Roethlisberger hit Bell with a short pass out of the backfield, and the superstar running back raced 33 yards to midfield.
One play later, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick got called for a 38-yard pass-interference penalty, setting up an easier-than-extra-point 30-yard field goal for Chris Boswell.
Just like that, it was only a two-touchdown deficit at the break.
And if you don't think those three little points made a huge psychological difference—for both teams—you haven't been paying attention to the history of this AFC North rivalry that has been more even in the physicality department, than it has in the win/loss column, as Pittsburgh walked away on Monday night with its eighth victory in the last nine contests between the two combatants.
People talk about lack of preparation and bonehead mistakes for a 10-2 team like the Steelers. You ain't seen unpreparedness and bonehead mistakes until you've witnessed the Bengals in action.
Sometimes, you need heart, guts and determination to come back from a three-score deficit.
But, sometimes, it takes a village.
Paul Brown Stadium has always been a friendly and accommodating village for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and they probably can't wait to return in 2018.