The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2017 season ended not only prematurely, but also bitterly, suffering an early postseason exit after falling to the Jacksonville Jaguars at home in the Divisional Round by a score of 45-42. The wounds are still fresh, but it’s time to relive the 2017 season that was, starting from the beginning.
Chapter XVIII – Jesse James Go-Ahead Score ‘Outlawed’ Against Patriots
For many people—evidently, including some members of the team—the Steelers’ season by and large came down to their regular season contest against the New England Patriots, occurring in the 15th week of the season, and as it just so happened, the way the season developed would have allowed them to all but secure the top seed with a victory.
Of course, the Steelers do not frequently beat the Patriots, at least while Tom Brady is healthy. The last time they have managed it was in 2011. But it looked as though they may well have done it at the end of this game when tight end Jesse James caught a pass on first and goal from the 10-yard line with under a minute to play and reached into the end zone.
But the league office wanted to take a closer look at the play, and head official Al Riveron ruled that it was not a catch. He argued that James was going to the ground while receiving the ball and did not establish himself as a runner before he lost possession of the football while making contact with the ground even though he crossed the goal line. In other words, he did not ‘survive the ground’.
It quite frankly ruined what was shaping up to be an excellent day for Pittsburgh Steelers football, taking down the Patriots with a game-winning drive even after the defense had just given up 11 points over a three-minute span to give them a three-point lead.
The Steelers got the ball with just 56 seconds to play, but a huge catch-and-run of 69 yards by JuJu Smith-Schuster gave them first and goal at the 10. While the James touchdown was nullified, they still had second and goal with 28 seconds remaining, though with no timeouts.
In spite of the fact that they had ample time to call two plays, they, frankly, did not, so when Darrius Heyward-Bey caught a pass inbounds, at the behest of Mike Tomlin, they had to run an improvised play, and ended up throwing an interception.
They could have kicked a field goal to tie the game and send it into overtime. That would no happen. And the Steelers would end up in the second seed, which meant that they would face the Jacksonville Jaguars, who beat them again. Had they been the top seed, they would have faced the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round.
Then they would have faced either the Patriots or the Jaguars in the AFC Championship game, and, call me crazy, I think they would have been better equipped to win that game.