Could've. Would've. Should've. These words define those who fall short of their goals. Such is the case of this series, which will examine the ebbs and flows of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 season and how specific individual plays may have shaped the year.
The Steelers 2018 season was going great… until it wasn’t.
A team which appeared destined to compete for a Super Bowl starting falling apart at the seams. Three straight crushing losses to AFC West teams setup a showdown that was highly anticipated but not thought to be possible for Pittsburgh to win: a rematch with the New England Patriots.
The Steelers had dropped the last six straight to the Patriots, dating back to their last win over their AFC conference foe in October of 2011. Prior to that win, victories were also rare as the Steelers could only muster four wins out of fifteen appearances against New England in the Tom Brady era.
Combined with the three game in-season losing streak, and a season which was on the line for the Steelers, expectations were at an all-time low.
How would David finally topple Goliath to keep their playoff hopes alive?
In what was also a rare occurrence of a low-scoring affair between high-powered offenses, the Steelers would strike first with an 6:20 drive after taking receiving the ball first. The Patriots would answer, but be stifled throughout much of the game.
Yet, this was still Tom Brady and Bill Belichick that we are talking about and as such, the status quo started to march down the field again, threatening to score down four points to the Steelers, 14-10.
That’s when we all found out that not all heroes wear capes. With the Steelers defense backed up to their own 5-yard line, the Patriots committed a rare penalty and were set back ten yards. The redo on first down would result in another negative play, setting up 2nd and Goal-To-Go from the Steelers 16.
What happened next is possibly the most rare occurrence in Steelers lore: intercepting Brady! Under blindside pressure, Brady attempted to hit Julian Edelman but Steelers CB Joe Haden's eyes were on the ball.
Climbing the ladder, Haden leaped into the air for the ball and was able to maintain control of the pigskin as both Rob Gronkowski and Edelman brought him to the turf.
The interception gave the Steelers offense the ball at their four-yard line with 7:43 left in the final quarter of the game. Roethlisberger would convert one third down with a nine-yard toss to Vance McDonald and another on a 20-yard pass to Jaylen Samuels. Chris Boswell, who missed one field goal try earlier in the game, was able to kick the ball 48 yards through the uprights to put the Steelers ahead 17-10 with just 2:30 remaining in the game.
Haden's interception was the catalyst for a defensive stand by Pittsburgh that ultimately resulted in no miracle comeback from the Patriots and a much-needed and emotional win for the Steelers, keeping their 2018 postseason hopes alive for at least one more week.