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Video: Officials took off 18 seconds on Steelers game-winning touchdown drive

A report shows that, while the Steelers did pull off an amazing walk-off victory, it might not have needed to be quite as hair-raising if this mistake had been caught.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

story from Scott Polacek of Bleacher Report brings to light a side of the story that might have gotten a lot more attention had Pittsburgh not made the plays needed to win against the San Diego Chargers.

The Steelers were set to receive the football with 2:59 left to go in the fourth quarter after the Chargers made a field goal to take a 20-17 lead. The Chargers then created a touchback on the following kickoff, which would have left the Steelers still with 2:56 in the game. Despite this logic, for some reason the game clock ran off an extra 18 seconds to leave the Steelers with only 2:38 remaining.

Polacek's report cites two tweets from different sources who caught this mistake. One from Jason Vida of ESPN, and another from ProFootballTalk.

To confirm what you're reading, here's a quick video we put together from the ESPN broadcast of the incident:

Things to note here:

  1. The clock definitely starts to tick as soon as the touchback is called after the whistle is blown. You can see that at the bottom of the screen at the :10 second mark of the video.
  2. Mike Tirico makes mention of the officials trying to correct some mistake on the play clock, not the game clock, prior to the kickoff. While the play clock is what determines what is a delay of game, the game clock determines how much time is left in the game. Maybe this factors into what happened here, but it still does not add up that a mistake before the kickoff would lead to an unexplained 18 second runoff after the touchback is called.
  3. This is not just an ESPN broadcast error; you can see in the background as Vick trots onto the field that at the :20 second mark of the video, the Qualcomm Stadium scoreboard's game clock is also ticking when it should not be. This is a mistake or an unexplained timing lapse that actually happened on the field and not something that only happened within ESPN's broadcast presentation.
  4. The start time (2:56) and the stop time (2:38) correspond with what the official play-by-play reveals from Jason Vida's tweet.
Ultimately, the Steelers made sure that the game was not in the referees' hands by leading a clutch touchdown drive to put the Chargers away. However, with the NFL declining to comment, there are still questions unanswered in the late night of a Pittsburgh win. The Chargers might also express concern, as the extra seconds may have at least allowed them a desperate Hail Mary attempt.