The Pittsburgh Steelers had fans sitting on the edge of their seats in Week 17 as they watched the team shoot themselves in the foot with an Antonio Brown fumble and a Ben Roethlisberger interception to allow the Cleveland Browns to hang around. Nonetheless, the team was able to rectify their play and put the Browns away.
Good thing too, as the Buffalo Bills beat the New York Jets and allowed the Steelers to claim the No. 6 seed in the AFC Playoffs. In this Film Room, we break down the game-changing plays from the Week 17 AFC North contest.
Have we seen this play before? Sure have. Think back to Brown's second touchdown against the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field in Week 15 to remember the same exact route, the same bracketed coverage and a pin-point accurate pass which equates in a touchdown.
What is amazing in this play is the trust Brown and Roethlisberger have together. Roethlisberger has always been a quarterback who throws to people he trusts, and if he doesn't trust you he will look elsewhere. On this play Roethlisberger never even looks off any defenders, knowing he Brown will have high-low coverage. With the underneath defender's back to the quarterback, Roethlisberger just has to put the pass over the defender, and on the inside of the deep defensive back for the score.
The duo make this seem simple, but it is anything but. Tremendous route by Brown, even better throw by Roethlisberger.
(Side Note: If Roethlisberger didn't like Brown down the seam, he would have had Martavis Bryant open in the back corner of the end zone.)
In the NFL you hear quarterbacks and offensive coordinators talk about "throwing a receiver open". This is talking about how the quarterback will throw a pass where his receiver will then have to move into open space -- making himself open -- for the reception. Roethlisberger and Brown do this regularly, but the play above from Austin Davis to Gary Barnidge is not a good example of this style of throw.
Kudos to James Harrison for being in position, but this is just an atrocious throw by the young quarterback. Davis sees Harrison's back and thinks he can "throw his receiver open", but Harrison turns to locate the ball and is able to make a play on it. No, it wasn't the Super Bowl 43 interception returned for a TD, but it was a game-changing play as the team recorded yet another red-zone turnover.
There were a few plays in the game where it looked like Davis had time, and the time evaporated before he could even move his feet. The first was a first quarter sack by Will Allen, and the second was this sack by Lawrence Timmons. Timmons comes on a delayed blitz, and, thanks to an incredible spin move, is able to not only sack Davis, but cause a fumble which was recovered by Arthur Moats.
The Steelers scored a touchdown a few plays later to put the game out of reach. A great play by the 'Law Dog', but the play was aided by great coverage downfield. When you have nowhere to go with the ball, you tend to make yourself vulnerable...and the Steelers took advantage.
(Side Note: This is what is talked about by winning your one-on-one matchup. Watch Stephon Tuitt scrape down the line, occupying two linemen, which leaves Timmons in a one-on-one situation. Advantage 'Law Dog'.)
If the Steelers want to make a serious postseason push, they need to take advantage of opportunities which present themselves like they did against the Browns. Pressure on the quarterback, red-zone turnovers and red-zone touchdowns are the keys to success for this team moving forward.