The Pittsburgh Steelers like playing in Cincinnati. They would have to—they almost always win. And you go into a stadium to win games. Yesterday’s victory over the Cincinnati Bengals was about as close as they come, scoring the go-ahead points with 10 seconds remaining, but it counts as much as a win as any other.
The offense only had 72 seconds to do it, albeit with all three timeouts, after the defense gave up a go-ahead score to Andy Dalton and the Bengals, but there was never any flinching from the offense. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger reportedly said on the sideline that they left them too much time.
For Vance McDonald, in his second season in Pittsburgh after spending four in San Francisco, it’s been a different experience to live through that. “It’s a mindset, it’s trust, it’s really, really special”, he said. And “it comes from the top”.
‘The top’ is Head Coach Mike Tomlin, whom McDonald and others credited for drilling home the importance of the two-minute drill constantly. “Considering how hard Coach Tomlin keeps on us in practice in those situations, and always tells us we have to have a touchdown to win”, he said, it’s not surprising.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had three catches for over 40 yards on the game-winning drive, made similar comments after the game. “1:12 with three timeouts? That’s a lot of time for us”, he said. “We work it in practice every time. I was here when five games last year we drove down for a winning field goal or a touchdown. So for us, being in the huddle is just like, we’ve been here before, we’ve done this, let’s go down and score”.
Of course, it wasn’t McDonald or Smith-Schuster on the game-winning play. it was Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown on a catch-and-run score from 31 yards out. The second-year wide receiver said that everybody on the offense knew what the play was going to be once they saw the coverage, Brown motioning behind Justin Hunter to set up the pick screen against a blitz.
It resulted in the Steelers’ third win of the season, but also the first time that they actually had to do much in the second half. In their first win, in fact, they scored all of their 30 points in the first half before holding off a 17-point surge to beat the Buccaneers by three. In their win a week ago over the Falcons, Atlanta scored just once in the second half while the Steelers added almost 30 points in a game they were already leading.
The Steelers came from behind to win four games last season, but all of them ended in field goals by Chris Boswell. Of course they didn’t need more than a field goal this time around, but they got it anyway from their two biggest stars at the biggest moment.