It’s a bitter pill to swallow when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat themselves. It’s even tougher to swallow when the Steelers beat themselves AND the officials help the other team out.
There’s no denying the New Orleans Saints were aided by a number of calls Sunday afternoon in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but the Steelers had a chance to overcome those calls and win the game. Obviously they ultimately didn’t, leading to the 3-point loss, putting the season in serious jeopardy.
A handful of plays helped determine the outcome once again. Let’s take a look.
Play 5 — 2nd & 4 at NO 44 (0:15 – 2nd) (No Huddle, Shotgun) D.Brees pass short left to A.Kamara pushed ob at PIT 25 for 31 yards (S.Davis). Pass 3, YAC 29 The Replay Official reviewed the runner was inbounds ruling, and the play was Upheld. The ruling on the field stands.
After the Steelers did all that work to tie the game up before the half, Pittsburgh had a brain fart at the worst possible time on defense, allowing Alvin Kamara to shake free for this 31-yard catch-and-run on a short little dump-off in the left flat, leading to a field goal as time expired in the first half, giving the Saints a 17-14 lead.
Asking Vince Williams to try and match Kamara in space is a loss for the defense every time, and that’s not on Williams; that’s on coaching. Pittsburgh’s staff got complacent at the end of the first half and it cost them dearly.
Play 4 — 4th & 2 at PIT 26 (2:00 – 4th) (Shotgun) D.Brees pass incomplete short left to M.Thomas (J.Haden). PENALTY on PIT-J.Haden, Defensive Pass Interference, 4 yards, enforced at PIT 26 – No Play
Another “no play” play in the top 5 list, this might go down as the shortest pass interference penalty in football in recent memory, moving the ball just 4 yards. However, that 4 yards was plenty for the Saints to move the chains on 4th and 2 after Joe Haden broke up a pass intended for Michael Thomas.
Flags came in late, and the Steelers tried to argue Stephon Tuitt tipped the pass, but the PI call extended New Orleans’ ultimate game-winning drive as Thomas pushed off Haden in the front corner of the end zone for his 2-yard touchdown, leading to the 31-28 win.
Play 3 — 3rd & 2 at NO 34 (10:21 – 4th) C.Okorafor reported in as eligible. S.Ridley right guard to NO 35 for -1 yards (K.Coleman, C.Jordan). FUMBLES (K.Coleman), RECOVERED by NO-A.Okafor at NO 35. The Replay Official reviewed the fumble ruling, and the play was Upheld. The ruling on the field stands.
Another fumble late in a pivotal game. He shouldn’t get off the bench again this season.
Facing a 3rd and 2, the Steelers turned to Ridley in the short-yardage situation and he rewarded them with a game-altering fumble. Now, replay on TV looked like Ridley may have been down before the ball came loose, but it was inconclusive, leading to the fumble call on the field standing.
Ridley’s fumble came on the New Orleans 34-yard line, which took points off the board for the Steelers. He doesn’t convert even if he holds onto the football, but with the way Chris Boswell was kicking the ball on Sunday, that’s likely a 31-24 lead for the Steelers early in the fourth quarter.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) December 24, 2018
Play 2 — 4th & 1 at PIT 34 (3:10 – 1st) (Shotgun) D.Brees pass incomplete deep right to A.Kamara [V.Williams]. PENALTY on PIT-J.Haden, Defensive Pass Interference, 33 yards, enforced at PIT 34 – No Play.
Honestly, this might be one of the worst calls I’ve seen in today’s NFL. This wasn’t even close to pass interference, and there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell Kamara jumps high enough to catch this football.
Yes, Joe Haden extended his left arm a bit, creating space between he and Kamara, but there’s no way this affected the Saints second-year running back from making a play on the football.
Obviously, Craig Wrolstad’s terrible crew thought that it did, calling pass interference in the end zone on Haden, giving the Saints a first and goal at the 1, which led to a Mark Ingram touchdown and a 7-3 Saints lead.
This should have been a turnover on downs for the Saints, giving Pittsburgh decent field position. Instead, it’s a 7-3 hole for the Steelers.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) December 23, 2018
Play 1 — 4th & 5 at PIT 42 (4:11 – 4th) (Punt formation) R.Nix left guard to PIT 46 for 4 yards (C.Robertson, C.Banjo).
I don’t mind the mindset of Mike Tomlin wanting to be aggressive, as he said in his post-game presser, and I don’t mind the decision to run a fake punt at that point in the game at that part of the field.
I mind running it with Roosevelt Nix when you need 5 yards. It’s not like it was a yard or two. When it’s 4th and 5 like that, there should be a fake punt in the playbook that has Jordan Berry throwing the ball, or something like that.
Heck, if you want to go for it there, how about leave the offense on the field and put the ball in Ben Roethlisberger’s hands?
Anyway, the fake punt failed, leading to a turnover on downs and a short field for the Saints. New Orleans ultimately scored 10 plays later, aided by that 4th and 1 pass interference call on Haden and non offensive pass interference call against Thomas, leading to the Saints win.
Now, I didn’t include JuJu Smith-Schuster’s fumble, and that could be a head-scratcher to some. It’s what ultimately lost them the game. It was a massive fumble no doubt, but I strongly believe that there were a number of plays prior to that which helped change the game in bigger ways.
Who knows what happens if JuJu doesn’t fumble that ball, but the Steelers were in that position prior the fumble because of massive plays that happened earlier in the game.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) December 24, 2018