Following a three-game skid which included losses on the road to Miami and Baltimore, and a loss at home to New England (without Big Ben) the Steelers hosted the Dallas Cowboys in a mid-afternoon showdown at Heinz Field which felt like another away game for Pittsburgh. The Steelers/Cowboys game was one of 2016’s hottest secondary market tickets, with Dallas fans paying as much as an entire season’s worth of Steelers tickets for the opportunity to attend only one game.
The noise within the stadium was often the opposite it should have been, as some fans took the money and ran; thinking the Steelers losing ways would continue.
Roethlisberger and company had another idea, jumping out to an early 12-3 lead, as Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell and Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott each tried to top one another when their offenses possessed the football.
If you looked at that score, you might think that wasn’t the case, and that Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell was sending balls through the uprights for field goals. However, this would be the game most famously known for its amount of two-point tries, rather than two-point conversions. The Steelers would attempt and miss, four of those tries while the Cowboys whiffed on two attempts of their own.
Yet, the offense couldn’t be blamed for the loss in this game. Le’Veon Bell had over 120 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving). Antonio Brown caught 14 passes for 154 yards and a TD as well. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 408 yards with three passing touchdowns and no interceptions.
The offense put up 30 points, but the defense gave up 35 in front of a record crowd at Heinz Field, in a game which saw the lead change seven times. The defense had no answer for several of the Cowboys stars, allowing an Elliott screen pass to convert into an 83-yard touchdown, and another 50+ yard passing play to Dez Bryant.
The Steelers entered the fourth quarter down five, and it felt as if they might drop their fourth straight loss. But Le’Veon Bell had other plans, as he would not be denied his touchdown.
The Steelers would remain up one point as they failed another of their two-point conversions. Dallas would respond with a six-minute drive culminating in another Zeke touchdown, leaving the Steelers with 1:55 remaining in the game to make their move.
And they would, marching down the field in roughly one minute, executing one of the greatest play fakes of all time, that will likely be forgotten due to the score at the end.
It was the defense again who collapsed at the end, committing penalties and allowing Elliott to scamper 30 yards for the game-winning touchdown with nine seconds left in regulation.
Steelers Nation went crazy following the game. A 4-5 team had a 12% chance of making the postseason at this juncture, and fans were noticeably upset. Even the players were upset, and while the harshest of critics called for Mike Tomlin’s job, a few adjustments and an easier slate of opponents in the latter half of the season would find the Steelers reversing their fortune.
And beating the odds.
(To be continued next week with the Steelers traveling to take on the Cleveland Browns!)