The Pittsburgh Steelers are 1-3-1 in their last five games, prior to which they were 5-3, riding a four-game winning streak, and seemingly heading in the right direction. They gained some momentum on Sunday after escaping the Baltimore Ravens with a win, but all of that and more was lost with last night’s embarrassment to the Minnesota Vikings.
They did their best to try to salvage it, however, to their credit, outscoring their hosts 28-7 after having already dug a 29-0 hole through the first 40 minutes of the game. They showed a level of resilience that they are hoping to build off of—since there isn’t much else to take away.
“Obviously it’s frustrating losing, but there’s always some good”, said rookie running back Najee Harris, who scored two of the Steelers’ four touchdowns. “We didn’t quit. Obviously the outcome’s not what we wanted, but just the fact that we came back and didn’t quit, we’re not there yet, but we’re gonna get there eventually”.
Despite trailing by four scores with under 20 minutes to play, Pittsburgh was able to take the game all the way down to the final play, damn near scoring a touchdown as time expired and putting themselves within a successful two-point conversion of sending the thing into overtime. They had converted one earlier in the game (though also failed on one), the second game in a row.
Harris isn’t very experienced with this sort of losing, coming out of Alabama. But he has been one of the bright spots. He topped 100 yards from scrimmage once again, rushing for 94 yards on 20 attempts and adding 10 receiving yards on three receptions, with one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger put up his second 300-yard game of the season, finishing going 28-for-40 for 308 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception and a 107.1 passer rating. He averaged 7.7 yards per attempt, just the fifth time this season he has averaged above seven for a game.
But the hole they dug themselves was just too deep, and it’s not the first time that they’ve had this problem. While they may have the ability to turn things on and mount a comeback—they have five game-winning drives and/or fourth-quarter comebacks in their six wins this year—you have to be nearly perfect doing it, in all three phases, and they did allow a 62-yard touchdown in the midst of their own push last night.
For a team that was accused of quitting by an opponent earlier this season, though, what does it mean that they nearly erased a 29-point deficit? They are the first team in NFL regular-season history to have the ball with a chance to tie in 1616 games in which one team trailed by at least 29 points. Nobody has ever won. But that doesn’t even count as a moral victory if it doesn’t translate to anything in the final four games.