Over the course of the past two games, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive and defensive units have had to collude to mount an impressive second-half comeback. Last week against the Bengals, facing a 20-9 halftime deficit, the defense pitched a shutout as the offense added a trio of field goals and, finally, the game-winning touchdown.
Following that go-ahead score, the defense continued their firm play, allowing a 14-yard reception on the first play, but then getting off the field three plays later. The offense wound down the final six minutes of the game without ever giving the Bengals’ offense a chance to touch the ball again.
Things went much differently in the second half of Sunday’s game against the Ravens, of course. The Steelers actually owned a 7-6 lead at the half, but ended up yielding 21 points in the second half. Seven of them came in the sort of end-of-game situation that the defense was able to shut down the week before.
This time around, the Steelers actually needed two touchdowns in the fourth quarter in order to secure that go-ahead drive, but they managed to pull off that feat in a span of just seven minutes and two seconds from the start of the first touchdown drive to the end of the final play of the second.
The Ravens got the ball back, newly trailing, with 7:16 left to play. The Bengals got it back with 7:29 to play. They ran four plays and picked up 10 total yards before punting with 6:11 remaining. Baltimore drove the length of the field from the 25-yard line for a 14-play, nearly six-minute touchdown drive.
From one week to the next, the Steelers defense hardly even bent an inch, and then broke. They allowed the Ravens to convert all four of their third-down opportunities when they had been just five for 13 heading into that final drive. And that included a long of 15 yards on a pass on third and 10 in the middle of the drive.
In truth, much credit must be given to the Ravens and their offense for their impressive, methodical drive, which took up most of the rest of the clock and left the Steelers with just 78 seconds to try to at least tie the game with a field goal, if not win it with a touchdown. Of course, Ben Roethlisberger and company proved up to the task.
Last week, the defense gave them the ball back with about six minutes to play and a lead. On Sunday, they had less than a minute and a half to put some points on the board after the defense got its first crack at the Ravens’ offense following the go-ahead score.
So, last week, it took only one comeback to get the job done. This week, it took two, in a game that carried far greater implications for their opponent, who scraped and clawed all the way to the end, and nearly pulled it off in enemy territory. Let’s just hope this isn’t an ominous sign for the playoffs.