The Pittsburgh Steelers’ first three wins were sealed by quality play by the offense in the late stages of the game, closing out victories in the two-minute and four-minute offense, requiring first downs and forcing their opponents to burn timeouts in order to secure victory. Twice, it involved them taking knees inside the red zone.
As should be no surprise, today’s game put Ben Roethlisberger and company in the same situation. After the defense finally made a third-down stop with minutes left and the Philadelphia Eagles missed a 57-yard field goal attempt, the Steelers were left with the task of preserving a two-point least with 3:18 remaining, the Eagles with all of their timeouts.
They did close out the game, but with the two-minute offense—because they scored too fast in the four-minute offense. The running game was able to seal the win, as it had done in the weeks before, even though it had been a shaky prospect throughout the game. Benny Snell converted on third and one, allowing them to run out the clock.
Taking over near midfield, James Conner started off the drive with just a short gain on the ground, but a facemask penalty on the defense gave the offense 15 yards and a first down. It was looking like that would be the Steelers’ best play of the drive—but then Roethlisberger his Chase Claypool for his fourth touchdown of the game, and the third receiving touchdown, to give the team a two-possession lead again.
Of course, this is not exactly how the four-minute offense is supposed to work, but you rarely turn down the opportunity to put seven points on the board, especially when you are able to make it a two-possession game.
The general task of the four-minute offense is to run an extended drive that consumes the clock and doesn’t put the ball back in the hands of the opposing offense, and the Steelers had done that very well through the first three weeks.
But when you have an opportunity to score when there is still three minutes left and your opponent has two timeouts, you do take the score. And as we saw, the big play was a spark for the team, which carried over to the defense, immediately responding with a sack between Stephon Tuitt and Bud Dupree, with Carson Wentz looking as shaky as ever, sailing the next pass over his target’s head.
The next-best thing to having a four-minute offense is having a defense that can close out games. This was a rough game for the defense, which was extraordinarily bad on third down, but they shut the door at the end. Finally, a desperation fourth-and-20 heave culminated in Steven Nelson’s second interception of the game, Wentz’ ninth of the season.
Although there are still warts, this was the best overall game the offense has played so far this season. The scoring is there, even if the efficiency is still a work in progress.