The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to rattle off eight wins in a row during the middle of the 2017 season, and a good chunk of that came from nail-biting come-from-behind affairs, or at least games that were tied late in the proceedings.
The 2018 Steelers are three quarters of the way from matching their longest winning streak since 2004, but haven’t had to come back so often. They do have two game-winning drives in that span, the most recent coming just Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars in which they erased a 10-point deficit in the final three minutes.
It’s not that often that they are put in these late-game positions in which the score is close and they have a chance to win in which they don’t actually come up with the result—the season opener against the Cleveland Browns not excepted.
Why do they get the job done so often? Aside from the sheer talent they possess on the offensive side of the ball from literally every position, from the quarterback down to the fullback, it’s because they’ve done it so much—even the young players—that they know not only what they need to do, but that they can do it.
Just ask JuJu Smith-Schuster, who experienced four game-winning drives in quick succession during his rookie season before his 21st birthday just last year. Following their most recent game-winning drive, he said after the game that they discussed it on the sideline. “We’ve been here before. We’ve done it already”, he teammates said to one another.
Said Vance McDonald, whose first season with the team was also in 2017, “it’s one of those things where we never lose our poise and we have confidence in each other”, according to the team’s communications department. “Again, I think it goes back to our offensive line and having [Ben Roethlisberger] make plays like he does”.
The most jubilant might have been one of those linemen, Maurkice Pouncey. “This win shows what kind of fight this team has. I’m so happy the way everyone kept their head up”, he said after the game. “There were times in that game when teams would turn their head down and it could have been a blowout easily. Guys kept fighting and we have to thank the defense the way they played today”.
As mentioned yesterday, Roethlisberger just passed John Elway in game-winning drives with 41 in the regular season. Six of them have come over the course of the past 18 games, and they have only lost three times in that span.
That’s twice as many games in which they came back to win late, which could have gone in another direction, as losses in that same span. And the New England Patriots game last season should have been another game-winner instead of a loss. Of the other two losses, the Steelers had a total of one possession during a one-score game in the fourth quarter.