Plays of the Year: Austin turns lone target into Wild Card TD

Steel City Underground presents “Plays of the Year” featuring the top runs, catches, hits and everything else in-between from the Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers may not have made it past their first post-season game following an up-and-down 2023 NFL regular season that saw them finish 10-7, but they put everything they had on the field on Monday, January 15, against the Buffalo Bills.

It was a Steelers team riddled with injuries, thin at some positions, blessed with talent at others that entered Highmark Stadium after a season that saw analysts soured on their chances, media that created more controversy from the outside than the team had internally, and a fan base that was high on their performance and calling for firings following others.

Quarterback Mason Rudolph, as the third string for all but the final three games of the 2023 season, had rallied the team on a three-game win streak to sneak into postseason play, and as the “hot hand” was given the start in the AFC Wildcard game. He stood in the pocket under pressure, often, and did all he could to keep Pittsburgh in the game after three touchdowns were allowed by the Steelers defense.

Down 24-10 in the waning moments of the third quarter, Rudolph marched the Steelers offense down the field from the Pittsburgh 25-yard line on 12 plays to get the team on the scoreboard once again just after the period expired and the fourth quarter began.

Following an 11-yard dart to Diontae Johnson, a mix of rushes by Najee Harris, and continued effort, the Steelers offense found itself at 2nd & goal at the Buffalo 7. Rudolph took the snap from shotgun and found Calvin Austin III on a short route that was created using misdirection by tight end Pat Freiermuth and receiver Diontae Johnson stacked with Austin to the left.

Austin was able to run a short route and sit in the middle just as the ball arrived and then turned in front of the defender to score the touchdown on his lone receiving target in the game.

The PAT attempt by Chris Boswell was successful and the Steelers had an opportunity, though slim, to attempt a late comeback with the score at 24-17, down just seven with just under five minutes left in the game.

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