2021 Steelers Season Recall: Wilson-less Seahawks nearly stun Steelers at home
Steel City Underground presents our 2021 Steelers Recall: a look back at Pittsburgh Steelers games and storylines from last season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were looking to get back to .500 on their season, with a bye week looming after their next game.
This encounter was slated for Sunday Night Football, against the Seattle Seahawks, in what should’ve been a rare Ben Roethlisberger versus Russell Wilson showdown. However, Wilson sustained an injury to his hand and would miss his first major time since becoming his team’s starting quarterback.
With Wilson out, all signs pointed at the Steelers being able to easily walk out of Heinz Field with a victory. As we’ve learned over the years, it truly is Any Given Sunday in the NFL, as backup QB Geno Smith found a way to extend this game into overtime.
Yet, it should’ve never been this way.
The first quarter went scoreless, before the Steelers ran out to a 14-0 lead off of a Najee Harris touchdown reception and an Eric Ebron rushing TD. (Yes, you read that correctly: the running back caught a touchdown and the tight end ran for one!)
The score would stand until the 9:55 mark in the third quarter when Alex Collins punched Seattle’s first points in. A Chris Boswell field goal is all the Steelers offense would muster as Geno Smith led the Seahawks to tie the game 17-shortly into the fourth quarter.
The disappointment started to set in after Seattle punted on their first five drives and had another end with a kneel down before halftime. The Steelers offense couldn’t capitalize and a fumble almost put them further into harm’s way as Big Ben was strip-sacked on the next drive.
Neither team could do much damage, each trading the ball before the Steelers offense took the field with 5:19 remaining in the game. Roethlisberger tried to kill as much clock as possible, with a nine-play drive which consumed 3:49 minutes but took a real world 13:30 to execute.
Beyond the two-minute warning, Chase Claypool was tagged for an offensive pass interference, and Pittsburgh’s drive would die at the Seattle 34, three yards short of a first down. Claypool would finish the game as a ghost, with two catches for 17 yards, in addition to other penalties.
Chris Boswell would be a hero once again – or would he? His 52-yard field goal is one of the longest conversions ever at the notoriously hard to kick in Heinz Field. But Geno Smith would get one more chance as his team, and the referee team, had plans to extend the game.
The referees were absent-minded in the final minute of regulation. It started with a contested catch right in front of the Steelers bench. Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf bobbled the ball while trying to drag his feet inbounds. He was incredibly tight to the boundary line and questionably, at least in real time, had a catch.
The zebras didn’t blink. No mandated replay. Nada.
The 3rd-and-1 play went for a first down as Seattle continued downfield, where Metcalf would find himself the target of controversy again. Two plays later he made a catch, a football move, and then had the football punched out of his hands by CB James Pierre.
Metcalf’s teammate, WR Freddie Swain, dove on the grenade almost instantly – however, the clock was still running! Amidst all of this, Metcalf and Swain both failed to get out-of-bounds and precious seconds ticked down to zero. Or did they?
Referee Shawn Smith stopped the game to review what was all but a definite catch and run seen by the 60,000-plus in attendance and millions more watching at home. Someone, somewhere, decided this play must be reviewed, which gave Seattle a boatload of time to prepare to spike the football as soon as play was restarted on the next whistle.
Generously, the referee crew gave Geno Smith and company three seconds to spike the ball, which arguably only one second remained during the original run of play: this would’ve resulted in the timeout-less Seahawks kicking team scampering onto the field in a mad dash, before the play clock could expire.
Instead, it was all casually done as if Seattle had a fourth timeout in their pocket to begin with, setting Jason Myers up with a game-tying field goal conversion that sent the teams into bonus football.
Thank God that the Steelers have T.J. Watt on their side though.
While the striped guys tried to their best to give the visiting team an advantage, Watt was a cheat code. At some point in overtime Watt must’ve said “screw this,” and took the game into his own hands.
Both of Watt’s sacks occurred during the last two times Seahawks QB Geno Smith had the ball – the last of which resulted in a strip sack and fumble recovery.
The first would play out on a third-and-four as Seattle started overtime with the ball in their hands (after winning the coin toss). The Steelers offense, however, would lay an egg and give the ball right back with a quick three-and-out, as the receivers continued to struggle all evening.
In the absence of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ray-Ray McCloud moved into the WR3 role and was also mundane. McCloud was incapable of breaking any tackles and gaining even one yard in the Steelers first overtime possession. (Okay it was three when Pittsburgh needed four, but it sure seemed as if he couldn’t get the job done otherwise!)
McCloud would finish the night with 2 catches for 18 yards…
Pressley Harvin nailed one of his best punts of the season, 56 yards, which would pin the Seahawks on their own 15-yard line. That’s when Watt would strike again – on Seattle’s very first play of the drive – stripping Smith, as Devin Bush recovered the loose ball on the 16. (Watt was named the AFC’s Defensive Player of the Week.)
Roethlisberger would come out to reposition the ball on the line of scrimmage with a deliberate run and then a kneel down to create a bit of comfort for Boswell, who would hit the chip shot for the game-winning field goal.
Boswell converted all three field-goal opportunities in the 23-20 final, which would lift the Steelers to 3-3 on the year with a much-needed bye week – and some Melvin Ingram drama – looming.