You’ll be hard pressed to think of a better regular season game in Heinz Field history. This one had it all—drama, suspense, multiple lead changes and an incredible finish. It was a great day to be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, as they defeated their arch-rivals the Baltimore Ravens 31-27 to clinch the AFC North title for the second time in three years, and secure a playoff berth.
After every game, we evaluate the game and label some players as ‘Winners’ while dubbing others as ‘Losers’ based on their performance. Time to look back on the game that was.
Ben Roethlisberger - You pay a player over $100 million dollars for wins like the one experienced at the big ketchup bottle in Week 16—for efforts that overcome adversity and lead the team to victory. Not that there weren’t speed bumps (more on that in a bit), but Roethlisberger’s 24/33 for 279 yards and three touchdowns was all about his fourth quarter performance. Big players play big in big games...if we could only find some consistency.
The Dynamic Duo - Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are more than dynamic. They’re ridiculous in their own way. Bell’s 122 yards on 20 carries, 15 yards receiving, and 2 touchdowns (1 receiving and 1 rushing) were huge. On the other hand, Brown was rather quiet, until the game mattered the most. Brown’s 96 yards on 10 receptions couldn’t have come at a better time, and his game-winning touchdown was one which will be talked about for years to come. To win, the Steelers need their stars to shine, and they did just that in Week 16.
Offensive Line - While Ben, Bell and Brown get most or all of the accolades, this offensive line is amazing. I don’t use that word lightly, but they are just that — amazing. A huge tip of the cap to Mike Munchak, but the combination of Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert are as hot as they get. This unit allowed ZERO sacks of Roethlisberger, and opened gaping holes in the running game. Kudos to the big boys up front.
The Ageless Wonders - I feel like I’ve written this almost every game during the Steelers now 6-game winning streak, but James Harrison and Lawrence Timmons are playing out of their minds right now. The 38 year old Harrison led the team with 11 total tackles and a tackle for a loss, and Timmons tallied 10 tackles, 1 for a loss and a sack. Just to further my point, check out this stat, courtesy of Chris Adamski of TribLive.com:
Lawrence Timmons during the six-game win streak: 44 tackles, 29 solo, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble
Penalties - You might be thinking, “Jeff, you put this in the wrong category.” But after several games with ridiculous penalty totals, it was a sight for sore eyes to see the Steelers only penalized 4 times for 45 yards. Not perfect, especially the personal foul for shoving Steve Smith Sr. out of bounds and Bell’s false start, but it’s progress people!
Ben Roethlisberger - Roethlisberger joins Sammie Coates in his game vs. the New York Jets as the only players to be elected to the Winner and Loser category. Roethlisberger throughout the first half threw only 9 passes. Those two third quarter interceptions were absolutely atrocious. Those passes nearly gave the game to the Ravens, but thankfully Roethlisberger was a winner when it counted.
Chris Boswell - Boswell was on the winner list last week after nailing 6 field goals against the Cincinnati Bengals, but he finds himself on the wrong side of the list today after kicking the ball out of bounds TWICE in the Week 16 game. Despite what announcers said, those plays give the opponent an extra 15 yards of field position. Since Justin Tucker’s range starts basically when he walks onto the field, that’s huge. If Boswell can’t handle directional kicking, just have him kick it through the uprights.
I could have added the poor officiating, but what is the use of beating a dead horse. A great team win after Pittsburgh overcame injuries to Ladarius Green, Stephon Tuitt and Sammie Coates to score 31 points and a defense who made enough plays with a decimated defensive front. Huge win, and a great time to be a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers!