Had the Pittsburgh Steelers managed to pull out the win in yesterday’s game, then the penultimate play of regulation certainly would have felt a lot cooler. The offense ran a hook and ladder play, James Washington taking a short pass and drawing coverage before pitching the ball to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who turned the corner and ran down the sideline for the majority of the 48-yard play.
With the drive having started on the 30-yard line after a Ryan Switzer kick return, the gain left the Steelers on the Oakland Raiders’ 22-yard line, but with just five seconds remaining, they chose to go for the field goal attempt right away, not wanting to risk trying to run another play, even with a timeout at their disposal.
As we know, kicker Chris Boswell ended up slipping on the poor Oakland turf, sending the ball on a low trajectory that never cleared the traffic out in front. The field goal would have tied the game at 24, but instead it sent them home losers, now going 0-3 in their last three games with a pair of losses at home.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was asked about the play after the game and he said that it had been in the playbook for “a long time. A long time”.
Naturally, it’s not a play that you would break out as a regular occurrence or in any old circumstances, but Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner felt that the situation they were presented would be the ideal time to run it.
“Great call. Randy asked if I thought it would be a good play call, and I thought, ‘if you’re gonna have one, now’s the time’. And it was a great call”, Roethlisberger said. And it was. It caught the defense off-guard, and they hardly could have executed it better.
As for why it worked, and why they called it when they did, the quarterback put it down to the game circumstances, down three points with 70 yards to go for a score, with 15 seconds remaining and a timeout in-hand.
“It’s the situation”, he said. “You can chuck it down the field and do things like that, but it’s kind of the old trick ‘em, hook and ladder-type thing in it, and obviously it worked”.
Roethlisberger, who missed the majority of the second half with a rib injury, finished the game having completed 25 of 29 pass attempts for 282 yards and two touchdown passes, both of them going to Smith-Schuster. For a second I thought the hook and ladder would be his third. Unfortunately it wasn’t, and because of that the Steelers now find themselves in weekly must-win territory just to make the postseason in 2018.