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.
Reading the title aloud may have come off as extremely harsh if this were written back in September or October. However, looking upon the Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 season as a whole, the following play by then second-year linebacker T.J. Watt may be true:
Watt may have saved the team’s entire season.
In the weeks that would follow, the Steelers would look mediocre, then appears to be Super Bowl contenders before going back into hibernation with a string of losses, fighting for their playoff lives.
One part of that reasoning is the ugly overtime finish to open the season in Cleveland… with a tie. Yet, things could’ve been much worse: imagine if the Steelers had lost instead? Things may have gotten uglier a lot faster than the final three weeks of the 2018 regular season!
The Cleveland game still had its moments, and more than one turning point for sure. The Steelers looked as if they were attempting to lose at every opportunity; from turnovers to a tie game going past regulation time, they had their shot at winning and blew it when Chris Boswell missed a 42-yard field goal.
Now, we all remember how Boswell’s season turned out, but at the time he was coming off of a Pro Bowl season and is one of the most reliable kickers in the league. But even the Wizard of Boz couldn’t use his magic in the sloppy rain and mud at First Energy Stadium to will the Steelers to a win.
That’s when the Browns took the field and the Steelers defense forced them to a three-and-out. Don’t forget, this was the previously 0-16 Cleveland Browns we are talking about! This shouldn’t be rocket science: the Steelers will get the ball now and do what they do.
Or so it wasn’t written…
Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense took over, but Big Ben would be strip-sacked shortly thereafter, with Cleveland getting the ball on the Pittsburgh 24-yard line. After a setup run and a spiked pass to stop the clock with 14 seconds remaining, the Steelers needed a miracle to make it out of Cleveland without a loss.
Browns kicker Zane Gonzalez lined up one-yard further than Boswell’s previous attempt, to try a 43-yard field goal which would give Cleveland their first win since December 24, 2016 – and only their second win in their last 36 games.
With the rain coming down heavy, the Steelers came just as hard with their kick blocking unit as T.J. Watt gets a paw on the football, which sails like a wounded duck to the waterlogged turf. The Steelers would get nine seconds to attempt something with the football, but the game would ultimately end with a final score of 21-all... and Hue Jackson's Browns would have to wait at least one more week before breaking their losing streak!