Thanks to the efforts of Le’Veon Bell and Mike Vick’s timely elevated play, the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to escape San Diego with a crucial 24-20 victory to improve to 3-2 on the season. While Markus Wheaton’s 72-yard touchdown reception and Bell’s one-yard walk-off romp were the highlights, several other, more easily forgotten plays, were just as vital in making the victory possible.
One of the game’s most important plays came early in the fourth quarter, with the game tied at 10 apiece. Attempting to hit Wheaton on a curl route, Vick misplaced his throw well inside the receiver and directly to cornerback Patrick Robinson. The errant pass would have been an easy interception and possibly a large return unless Wheaton alertly plays defensive back to break up the turnover.
Later in the fourth quarter, the Chargers for driving for the go-ahead score, facing a 3rd-and-8 from the Pittsburgh 36-yard line with 3:06remaining in the game. Keenan Allen whipped Ross Cockrell off the line of scrimmage with a nifty inside release, gaining several yards of separation on a crossing route that could have potentially gone for six if not for the intervention of Lawrence Timmons.
Allen is moving into the clear quickly, but Timmons is able to get his hand up in the passing lane and bat the ball down before it can be completed. If not for the linebacker’s heads up play, Allen easily picks up the first down and San Diego is able to run most of the clock out and force the Steelers to burn their timeouts. Huge play to force a 54-yard field goal.
On the ensuing Pittsburgh drive, Vick and co. faced an important 3rd-and-1 from their own 40 yard line with just 1:15 remaining and the team down three points. Rolling left to escape pressure, Vick fired a missile to Darrius Heyward-Bey, who made a leaping high point reception for 15 yards and a first down.
First of all, Heyward-Bey making clutch hands-catches despite contact? What world is this? In all seriousness, he’s been fantastic filling in for Martavis Bryant despite my lengthy list of concerns pertaining to his abilities. Major props to him.
Second, great throw by Vick with a linebacker bearing down on him. Stays calm in the face of pressure, doesn’t panic and run, and has his patience rewarded with a huge pitch-and-catch to reach the San Diego 45.
After Vick’s 3rd down scramble moved the Steelers into field goal range, Heath Miller quietly made the outstanding catch to set up Bell’s game-winning touchdown run. Despite Brandon Flowers draped all over him and Jahleel Addae delivering a headshot to Miller’s helmet, the veteran tight end hung on to set the Steelers up in business at the one-yard line with five seconds remaining.
Just remarkable concentration and strength to be able to high point this football and maintain possession despite taking a wallop from the safety. In many ways, the play is a microcosm of Miller’s career, forgotten due to the one following it, but absolutely essential to avoiding overtime and winning in regulation. Not many would have liked the Steelers chances in the extra period, but Miller made sure they wouldn’t have worry about another heartbreaking loss.