Ben Roethlisberger entered yesterday’s game with just one interception on the season on 165 pass attempts. He attempted 49 passes against the Tennessee Titans. Three of them were intercepted. After the game, he called that performance unacceptable, though arguably the most frustrating one was the interception off of a pass batted down at the line, as he had trouble consistently clearing the line of scrimmage due to batted passes during the game.
The final interception nearly did the most harm, however, as it came with just minutes left in the game, inside of field goal range, with the Steelers up 27-24. While it was 3rd and 12, he took a shot for the end zone, throwing to JuJu Smith-Schuster into double coverage, who did have his hands on the ball first.
Despite the fact that there were three defenders around him, the young wide receiver feels as though he still should have made that play, even though linebacker Jayon Brown was able to get his arm between Smith-Schuster’s and dislodge the ball. And he’s still glad that Roethlisberger threw it in the first place and gave him the chance of putting the game away.
“Yeah, I was glad Ben threw it”, he told reporters after the game, via transcript. “Obviously, Ben trusted me enough to throw the ball there and that’s a play I have to make for myself, just go over and grab it over his shoulder and his back. But, no, all — I knew I had the ball in my hands and they just — they broke it up and had a good play”.
The interception in the end zone gave the Titans the ball on their own 20-yard line, but it prevented the Steelers from putting any more points on the board, which kept a field goal in play to send the contest into overtime, which they very nearly did, if not for a missed 45-yard attempt with 19 seconds to spare.
Although Smith-Schuster is critical of himself for not making the play, as you would expect him to be, a lot of credit has to be given to the defender for having the awareness of where the ball was located and to rake it out of his grasp, popping it up in the air for a rebound interception.
Had the Steelers gotten a field goal out of that sequence, it’s difficult to say how the end-game scenario would have played out differently. Obviously, a field goal would not have been attempted, since it wouldn’t have done the Titans any good, but perhaps an extra down to be aggressive would have yielded a touchdown.
Of course, if Smith-Schuster completed that play, the Steelers are up 10 points and have virtually put the game out of reach. Two weeks ago, Chase Claypool helped close out the Philadelphia Eagles with a late touchdown. This time, it just didn’t happen. A better throw would have done it, perhaps.