It goes without saying that the Pittsburgh Steelers are kicking themselves for blowing the opportunity that they had with less than a minute to play against the Cowboys to come out of Sunday’s game with a victory. Ben Roethlisberger orchestrated a fine fourth-quarter comeback drive and what should have been a game-winning drive in a little over a minute, ending with a brilliant fake spike touchdown pass.
But the defense blew it, and that is nothing new for Roethlisberger.
In fact, according to Scott Kascmar for Football Outsiders, the only quarterback who has experienced a greater amount of adversity following a potential game-winning drive has been Drew Brees. Brees, over the course of his career, has thrown 13 go-ahead touchdown passes in the fourth quarter in games in which his team has lost. Roethlisberger has thrown eight, the second-most in NFL history.
Kacsmar also noted that all eight of those instances for Roethlisberger have come since the 2007 season, and all but one have come since 2009, in case the Mike Tomlin detractors and conspiracy theorists felt that they were running out of fuel. The defense has spoiled eight go-ahead touchdown passes from Roethlisberger in the span of the past decade.
Of course, I haven’t gone back and looked for those examples, but I would imagine that one would be hard-pressed to find a topper compared to Sunday’s defeat. A fake spike turned go-ahead touchdown pass with 42 seconds left against a 7-1 Cowboys team at home? Right after Dallas retook the lead on a long drive? And only to see them come back again and grab the lead right back? Crushing.
To me, at least, it wasn’t so much the end result, what the scoreboard showed, that was such a gut punch, rather than the manner in which it unfolded, but that could probably be said about just about any game that involves multiple lead changes in the final minute for the losing side.
Don’t look for any immediate change of fortunes in this area, either, because while the defense has had its moments, the reality is that the fourth quarter has been their worst when it comes to allowing points to be scored against them.
Of the 21 offensive touchdowns that they have allowed in 2016, eight of them, or 38 percent, have come in the fourth quarter. Even the special teams gave up a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Of the 206 total points against they have allowed, 69 have been scored in the fourth quarter, which is over a third of all points allowed.
There is really no lesson to be learned from this article. It is just the communication of a statistic that is painfully relevant at the moment. Over the course of the past decade, Roethlisberger has had numerous opportunities to author a comeback spoiled by a subsequent defensive letdown. Letdown is the key word there, because there is nothing uplifting to be found here.