Pittsburgh Uses 4th Quarter Explosion to Steel AFC North Title

Le’Veon Bell rushed for 122 yards a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass to help beat the Ravens 31-27. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

In a week when Pittsburgh Steelers legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw criticized Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin’s coaching ability and philosophy, even going as far to say “He’s a great cheerleader guy…”, Tomlin’s team came out and backed up their #1 cheerleader by winning their 5th AFC North division title in his 10 seasons as a head coach. Especially, the Killer B’s of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.

When it looked like Roethlisberger was going to throw away the division and possibly the playoffs with 2 second half interceptions that set the Baltimore Ravens up for 10 points, offensive coordinator Todd Haley turned to the guy I call “the most lethal offensive weapon in the NFL”, Le’Veon Bell.

The Steelers offense started the game ringing the Bell successfully. #26 converted 4 of the Steelers 6 first downs on their first drive of the game and rushed for 45 yards, which were more than the total he had the entire game against Baltimore in week 9 (32 yards). That 9 play, 87 yard drive ended with a 20-yard TD pass from Roethlisberger to Xavier Grimble to put the ‘Burgh up 7-0. We all know what happened from that moment through the beginning of the final 15 minutes. Pittsburgh was soundly out played and Bradshaw’s assessment of Tomlin looked pretty spot on.

But just like they’ve finished the second half of this season, they did so in this game. In the 4th quarter Pittsburgh scored 21 points on drives of 75, 90, and 75 yards. The longest was 2 minutes and 49 seconds. On the 90-yard touchdown drive to put them ahead 24-20, Brown and Bell gained EVERY yard. With the game on the line, #7 went to #84 with 9 seconds remaining and he fought his way into the end zone to bring the AFC North title home with the 31-27 win.

For the game, Le’Veon rushed for 122 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown, he also had 3 catches for 15 yards and a touchdown. Brown had 10 catches for 96 yards and a touchdown, 9 in the second half. Roethlisberger finished with 3 touchdown passes on 24 of 33 and 279 yards to go along with those 2 interceptions.

Defensively it wasn’t pretty, but they got it done when it counted. The Ravens won the time of possession battle 34:37 to 25:23. They were 9 of 17 on 3rd down conversions. Joe Flacco passed for 262 yards on 30 of 44 passing, while the offensive line bullied the Steelers D down the field for 122 rushing yards. Baltimore was beating the Steelers every which way you’d want. But Keith Butler’s unit forced Baltimore to settle for 4 field goals in the red zone, and a botched snap on another field goal attempt basically sealed their playoff fate.

Ryan Shazier’s interception as time expired sealed the AFC North title for Pittsburgh. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Flacco was sacked 2 times for -18 yards, and Ryan Shazier’s pick as time expired clinched the division. This is the first game in 2016 the Steelers have allowed 21+ points and won. All 5 losses this season came when the opponent score 21 or more points.

Who would’ve thought at week 10 when the Steelers were 4-5 and on a four game losing streak, they’d be 2016 AFC North Champions?  But here they are. With a 6-game win streak, surging into the playoffs as the 3-seed, instead of sneaking in like last season and looking like the team NOBODY wants to play in January.

Next up, the 1-14 Cleveland Browns in Heinz Field on New Year’s Day.

EXTRA POINTS

  • Roethlisberger’s 3 touchdown passes moved him to 301 and past John Elway, he’s idol growing up, for 9th on the NFL’s All-time pass touchdowns list.
  • Antonio Brown joined Marvin Harrison as the only players in NFL history to have 4 straight season of 100+ receptions, and his 1 TD reception was the 50th of his career.
  • With his 6th 100+ rushing yard game of the season, Le’Veon Bell passed Barry Foster, Dick Hoak, and Frank Pollard for 5th place on the Steelers all-time rushing list.
  • The Steelers are the only team in 2016 to not allow an opening drive touchdown to an opponent.
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