What If These 5 Games Went A Different Way?
Here is a list of five different games from the 2013 season, where had they gone another way, the Steelers may have made the playoffs… or better.
Six More Yards
Playing in front of the English fans in London, the Steelers trailed the Vikings by 7 points with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Starting at their own 22, Pittsburgh drove all the way to the Vikings 6 yard line, before Ben Roethlisberger throws an incomplete pass on 2nd down, and is sacked and fumbles on 3rd down, ending the game when the Vikings recover the football.
Edit: And what if Matt Cassell doesn’t play? The Vikings were otherwise horrendous in other games where their passing game was lead by Christian Ponder or Josh Freeman.
Shaun Suisham Goes Perfect
A week after hitting all 4 of his field goal attempts in a win against the Ravens, and being named AFC Special Teams Player of the week, Shaun Suisham misses not 1, but 2 tries in a 3 point loss to the Oakland Raiders. They were the only two misses of the season for the placekicker, and had he gone perfect on the season, the Steelers win in Oak Town.
Sanders Makes The Catch
It doesn’t get more sweet than defeating your rivals twice in one season. The Steelers nearly had the chance on Thanksgiving night in Baltimore. Pittsburgh trailed by 8 points, but it appeared improbable they would close the gap. Nevertheless, the team drove 79 yards and scored a touchdown with 1:06 remaining in the game. A two-point conversion would tie the score, and possibly force overtime, however an Emmanuel Sanders drop in the endzone ultimately sealed the Steelers’ fate.
Brown Stays Inbounds
A week removed from the heartbreaking Sanders drop, the Steelers find themselves on the wrong side of a classic shootout with the Miami Dolphins. Following a negative yardage play and a marginal gain, 3 seconds were left on the clock, as the Steelers faced down a 6 point deficit from their own 26 yard line.
What happened next could’ve rivaled the Immaculate Reception in Steelers folklore: Ben Roethlisberger throws a short, 7 yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders… who then laterals to Jonathan Dwyer, who laterals to RT Mike Adams, who quickly gets the ball back to Roethlisberger, who then scampers slowly down field before pitching to Antonio Brown… who skyrockets all the way to the end zone for a 55 yard play… inadvertantly stepping an inch out of bounds just yards shy of a touchdown, ending the game.
So You’re Saying There’s A Chance?
It was a statistical improbability. The then 6-8 Steelers had a slim shot at making the playoffs. With two weeks remaining, all they had to do was beat the Packers in Green Bay and the Browns at home. Oh, and the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens had to lose their last two remaining games, with the San Diego Chargers losing just one of their two.
The next-to-last week saw the pieces fall into place, before Pittsburgh beat Cleveland and saw the rival Ravens drop their game to Cincinnati. New England took care of Miami. The only thing that had to happen is the Chiefs had to win against the Chargers. In San Diego. With their backups.
Their backups? Call it a day. Or so Pittsburgh fans thought. The Chiefs sat a number of starters including quarterback Alex Smith and running back Jamaal Charles: and lead the Chargers by 10 heading into the 4th quarter. Then, San Diego fired back with 10 unanswered points, tying the score and leaving both the Chargers’ and Steelers’ playoff hopes to one player: Ryan Succop.
Succop, who made 6 of 7 attempts from 40 yards, was lined up for a dead center shot at a game-winning 40 yard field goal. The attempt sailed wide of the field goal posts, and with the miss, forced an overtime where the Chargers would secure the final playoff spot, sending the Steelers home for the postseason.
The Steelers, along with 4 other AFC teams, would finish their 2013 season with a record of 8-8, one game outside of making the playoffs. But one has to wonder: what if? What if any of the above situations had translated into a win and a better winning percentage? The Steelers would make the playoffs, instead of sitting at home for a second straight season.
With all of the intangibles factored in, 2013 was a season where the Steelers played on thin ice. We can only hope there are less, maybe no “what if’s” in 2014.
Either way, everyone should take note of the close battles and how small details ultimately factor into the big picture.