The Pittsburgh Steelers lost a close game to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday Night Football. The 23-20 OT score was closer than it needed to be. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin may have made calls that cost his team an important conference win. But it wasn’t all on Tomlin and his staff.
With the Cincinnati Bengals seeming like an early season lock to win the AFC North, the Steelers are in a must-win situation. Tomlin’s team lost starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a knee injury in Week 3. Michael Vick was signed in August as an insurance policy. That move was questioned by many loyal Steelers fans, but turned out to be what they needed.
Tomlin’s hand was forced, when Big Ben went down, and Vick was called upon to start for the Steelers in less than a month after his signing. Mike Tomlin had always wanted to bring Vick to the Steel City. But there were certain things that kept the deal from materializing. It worked out for both teams.
Vick turned in a stout game in the loss to the Ravens, going 19 of 26 for 124 yards and a touchdown. Le’Veon Bell chipped in for 129 yards on 22 carries. The Steelers seemed to have the game in control, halfway into the third quarter. The home team was up 20-7. That’s when things began to fall apart. The Ravens made a strong comeback, narrowing the score to 20-17. Tomlin decided to go with the percentages. On fourth and five, with 2:29 remaining, Mike Tomlin allowed Josh Scobee the opportunity to put the Steelers up by 6. Tomlin’s decision would force the Ravens to score a touchdown instead of a field goal.
Tomlin and the Steelers watched in dismay, as the 49-yard attempt sailed wide left. The vaunted Steelers defense would be called upon to stop the Ravens and secure a win for Mike and the fans. After a James Harrison sack of Flacco, Vick and the offense was given the chance to ice the victory again. The offense went stagnant and Scobee was called upon again, with a mere 1:06 left to play in regulation. This time the kick was from 41 yards out. Once again Tomlin watched as the kick sailed wide left.
Flacco and the Ravens engineered a 70-yard drive to tie the game and send the AFC North battle into overtime.
After winning the toss in overtime, Mike Tomlin’s Steelers had the ball first. Following a drive to the Ravens’ 39-yard line, the Steelers were faced with a fourth and 2. Scobee had already missed two kicks. Tomlin decided to send Vick on a quarterback keeper, to pick up the yardage. He was stopped short. The Ravens took over and didn’t score.
Tomlin and the Steelers had another chance to put the game away. Vick drove the Steelers to the Ravens’ 33-yard line. Again faced with fourth and short, Tomlin opted for a Vick pass to Antonio Brown. The pass sailed over his head and Baltimore took over.
Josh Scobee had missed two kicks on the night. Both were late in the fourth quarter. Both were from under 50 yards and both to the same end zone of a windy field. Making either kick would have essentially clinched the back-and-forth AFC North battle.
Tomlin decided on the calls that made sense.
The first Steelers’ chance at victory was from the Ravens 39. That’s a 57-yard kick. Scobee had already missed two shorter field goals in regulation. If the Steelers come away empty, then that gives the Ravens a short field to march down and kick their own game-winning field goal. The second Tomlin decision was on fourth and one. That was still a 51-yarder that had to sail into the wind.
Accodring to USA Today, the winning kick by Justin Tucker was a 52-yarder. The score tied the record for the longest field goal in Heinz Field history.
[Photos by Justin K. Aller, Jared Wickerham /Getty Images, Associated Press]