It was heading into the Week 15 game against the Bengals that we featured an article on our site that pointed out that in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ then-eight wins, in none of them were they required to mount a comeback in the late stages of the game. It was more of a triviality than anything, but in light of the past three weeks, it seems fitting to start out by mentioning that.
The Steelers have won their past seven games en route to an 11-5 season, but the final three victories proved to be hard-fought, scrappy affairs that required the team to mount some impressive, even improbable comebacks in the fourth quarter and in overtime. And such adversity on the doorstep of the postseason only serves to keep them on their toes while sharpening their teeth, so to speak.
It was against the Bengals when they found themselves trailing by as much as 14 points, down 20-6 at the lowest point, and 20-9 by halftime. The Steelers seemed incapable of getting into the end zone. But after another trio of field goals, and a strong defensive effort that kept the Bengals off the scoreboard in the second half, things began to turn around.
The Cincinnati defense provided an assist with four consecutive plays on which they were penalized, but the offense finished it off with a beautiful catch and throw for a 24-yard score between quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Eli Rogers.
The defense of the Steelers only allowed Cincinnati to pick up 38 yards in the second half, and quickly got the ball back for the offense, who held on to the ball for the final six minutes or so of that game, without giving the Bengals a chance to respond.
The comeback the following week proved to be even more monumental, and likely folkloric in the annals of Steelers history. With the division pretty much on the line—though that proved not to be the case with the Ravens losing in Week 17, the Steelers had to overcome a 20-10 deficit, scoring two touchdowns in the first half of the fourth quarter to go up 24-20.
Only the defense could not quickly turn the ball back over, and in fact allowed the go-ahead touchdown with just 78 seconds remaining. But Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown would not be denied. Roethlisberger found Brown for a four-yard touchdown when he fought through multiple defenders at the goal line to reach and break the plane in what has been called the Immaculate Extension, the play that won the AFC North.
Because of the implications of that victory, the Steelers rested a number of their veterans, which served to add to the adversity of the day. They fell behind 14-0 early, only to slowly work their way back, leading 21-14 in the fourth quarter.
But once again, the defense allowed a response drive, and almost another, but on the second occasion, they forced a fumble that sent the game into overtime. The Browns scored a field goal on their opening drive of the extra frame, but after converting on fourth down, Landry Jones connected with Cobi Hamilton down the field for the explosive, walk-of touchdown.
You don’t get any bonus points for climbing back and winning late into the game, but there is some intangible benefit to reap from it in terms of being able to handle adversity. That is a necessary tool to have in your bag during the playoffs, and the Steelers have become well-equipped over the final stretch of the season.