Usually, after a Pittsburgh Steelers victory, we break down the game-changing plays from the Black and Gold’s most recent win but, after the Week 16 win over the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field, we thought we would do something different.
We have broken down specific series before, but never an entire drive. Of course, there aren’t many occasions which have Ben Roethlisberger taking over at the 25-yard line with 1:18 left in the game and two timeouts, then driving the length of the field for the game-winning touchdown.
Time to break down the drive which won the AFC North and clinched a playoff berth. (Reminder: We are focusing on the key plays on the drive which moved the Steelers into scoring position).
Jesse James 18-yard reception, shotgun formation, 1:09 seconds left, 4th quarter
On this 1st-and-10 play, you see the Steelers sticking with their favorite no-huddle package. Shotgun formation, three wide receivers, one tight end and Le’Veon Bell in the backfield.
Plays like this are what makes Roethlisberger truly special. The Ravens don’t just sit back and watch Pittsburgh drive down the field, they send an extra defender to apply pressure on Roethlisberger. The Ravens certainly notice the Steelers only have six blockers, including Le’Veon Bell, so they send a 5-man rush, but the Steelers pick it up and create a nice pocket for Roethlisberger to climb.
Roethlisberger, never afraid of pressure, steps up and makes a great throw to Jesse James over the middle of the field, and suddenly the Steelers are past midfield and in business.
Eli Rogers 20-yard reception to Baltimore 19 yard line: 4th quarter 57 seconds remaining
On 2nd-and-1, the Steelers keep the same personnel on the field, but deploy a bunch formation off the left side of the line. This is a great offensive package to deploy, as you can either run and pass out of it. But the Steelers clearly are thinking pass with only 57 seconds left in the game and the division on the line.
The Ravens again send pressure with a fifth rusher and, again, Roethlisberger is able to avoid pressure by stepping up in the pocket and escaping to his right. Roethlisberger is deadly when rolling to his right, and his 20-yard pass to Eli Rogers was a great read, but it also required an incredible catch by Rogers.
The Ravens drop into zone coverage and, after C.J. Mosley passes Jesse James out of his zone, he’s late to pick up Rogers who’s following behind James. It takes just that split second for Rogers and Roethlisberger to connect for a big gain.
Rogers’ ability to climb the ladder and bring down the tough catch set up the Steelers to have options with a tying field goal locked up.
Jesse James 9-yard reception to Baltimore 4 yard line
On this play, time is becoming a factor. With no timeouts remaining, Roethlisberger does not want to go to the middle of the field. Clearly, the Ravens are protecting the boundaries to prevent the Steelers from stopping the clock, and that’s why Jesse James is wide open over the middle of the field.
When you see James flash across the screen, he was left uncovered nearly the entire time. Again, the Ravens are willing to surrender a pass over the middle, and tackle the catch to try and kill more time.
By sending only four pass rushers, Roethlisberger has time to scan the field and see his only open option is James over the middle. The completion causes the team to clock the ball, and set up one play with 14 seconds remaining in the game.
GAME-WINNER. Shotgun formation. Antonio Brown for 4 yards.
With the game on the line, the Steelers were going to go to one of their superstars. They did just that when they ran one of their favorite red-zone plays — the rub route. Off the snap, Eli Rogers and Antonio Brown cross, intending for the two defenders to get confused, or to trip each other up, making for an easy reception.
However, the Ravens are running a basic outside zone defense and simply pass off the receivers to the inside and outside. Nonetheless, Brown still has the inside leverage on the play and is able to make the catch, but instead of walking into the end zone Brown heads straight into three defenders all trying to keep him from scoring.
Three against one, what are the odds that Brown punches it in for the go-ahead score? Well, pretty good actually. Brown braces for impact from C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle. Mosley bounces off Brown, and the All-Pro receiver shows the strength to not just stand up to the duo of defenders, but to stay on his feet and reach the ball over the goal line. A true test of strength and determination.
The Steelers are a resilient group of players, and this drive showed just what they are capable of when the game is on the line. Ideally, the team won’t have to drive 75 yards in just over one minute to win the game, but it shows this team is more than capable of doing so, if called upon.
A great drive and great plays made by several players, with the superstars stepping up when it mattered most.