By Alex Kozora
Before turning out attention to the start of training camp, we’ll revisit 2013 one more time. This is a brand new series that will be recapping each game by highlighting three plays that shaped the final score – and the 2013 season – of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
What’s that? A win this time? Let’s not waste any more time and jump in with the three plays that shaped the Steelers’ Week Six 19-6 victory over the New York Jets.
Play #1 – 2nd Quarter: Heath Miller’s 31 yard reception
Ah, feels good to say that again.
It isn’t Heath Miller’s first game back nor his first productive one – he caught six passes for 70 yards the week prior – but it is this 31 yard grab that puts a stamp on his return.
First play of the second quarter. Miller runs down the seam against 6’0 cornerback Darrin Walls. The play begins to break down for Ben Roethlisberger who comes across the field to find Heath. The pass is high, but only where Miller can reach it, and the tight end stretches out his arms to pluck the ball above the head of the defensive back.
Like the consummate professional that Miller is, there is no celebration. He simply flips the ball to the referee and walks back to the huddle.
A few plays later and the Steelers’ would tie the game on a 46 yard Shaun Suisham field goal.
He would only surpass the 84 yards from this game once the rest of the season while this reception would tie for his season long.
Play #2: 3rd Quarter: Emmanuel Sanders’ 55 yard touchdown
It’s the only touchdown of the game so you better believe it’s going to make the cut. Pittsburgh shows the Jets why it’s a bad idea to play Cover Zero.
Emmanuel Sanders, aligned in a nasty split to the strong side, uses a head fake and a slight outside stem off the line to burn Antonio Cromartie inside. This is never an optimal position to be in for a cornerback.
Pitch and catch from Ben to Sanders, giving the Steelers’ a 16-6 lead and an optimal start to the second half. It took until the fifth game of 2013, and that’s incredibly painful to write, but the Steelers’ had their first double-digit lead.
Play #3 – 4th Quarter: Lawrence Timmons interception
Three straight positive plays, somebody go buy a lottery ticket. And the first one on the defensive side of the ball.
Last chance for the Jets to make a game of it. Down 19-6 with a little over three minutes remaining and the ball at the Steelers’ 12. With two timeouts left and the two minute warning, if the Jets find the end zone on this possession, they can conceivably force a three and out and have a chance to win.
It’s one of those “comfortable uneasiness” moments for Pittsburgh fans. Still in good shape but with the realization it can all go awry very quickly.
Lawrence Timmons puts an end to that. It’s a lame duck throw that he plucks at the three and seals the victory. But Timmons isn’t alone in the credit. It was created by pressure; an unheard of word the first four weeks. Jarvis Jones gets a favorable matchup against Mike Goodson, shedding him and smacking Geno Smith as he releases the pass. It floats directly into Timmons’ hands.
Truthfully, because I didn’t do an “Inside the Tape” that week (the only blemish on my permanent record) this is the first time I’ve seen the play on Coaches’ Tape. For a player that struggled so much as pass rusher, it’s a play Jones can hang his hat on, even if there was an obvious mismatch.
A case can be made for Ryan Clark’s interception while the Jets were driving in the third quarter in a ten point game, but there wasn’t nearly as much pressure there, just a poor throw. The pressure is the focal point here, not the turnover itself.
The Steelers’ would record their first win of the season, 19-6. For a brief moment, the sky stops falling. Breath in, breath out.