It is exceedingly rare that a team is able to come back from a 29-point deficit to win the game. In fact, in the history of the NFL, it has never been done in the regular season in 1616 games all-time in which one team has trailed by that many points. Nobody has come closer, however, to a comeback than had the Pittsburgh Steelers.
They were the first team in that scenario, last Thursday, to at least have possession of the football with a chance to tie the game or take the lead in a game in which they trailed by 29 or more, having scored 28 points in the final 18 minutes of the game. They ultimately lost by eight points, and very nearly scored a touchdown as time expired, if not for an excellent play by Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger delivered a perfect pass between defenders to hit rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth right on the hands. He had the ball, but Smith was able to come over the top of him and hit the ball loose, forcing an incompletion and ending the game. While it was a tremendous defensive play, though, he still believes it was his play to make.
“It definitely sucks not being able to come away with that catch, but credit to the Vikings for making a good play, Harrison Smith”, he told reporters earlier today about that final play, speaking to the media for the first time since the end of that game.
“But at the end of the day, it’s a catch I’ve made a couple of times in camp and in my past, so I’ve just got to make that play”, he added. “It was kind of a good situation that I was in, and I just hope to continue to be in that situation and make that play”.
Freiermuth already had another touchdown earlier in that game, one of seven he has on the season, which is tied for the most by a rookie tight end in team history with Eric Green in 1990 (the overall team record for tight ends is eight, by the way).
Roethlisberger is showing faith and confidence in Freiermuth the way that he hasn’t with any other tight end since Heath Miller. He already has 60 targets on the season, coming away with 45 receptions, albeit for only 385 yards, but his impact was always expected to be in the red zone.
“I kind of did a little bit”, Freiermuth said, about taking something away from the fact that Roethlisberger showed the trust in him to throw that ball with the game on the line, “but I’ve just got to finish the play and come away with the contested catch”.
Who knows? Perhaps next time he does find a way to finish that play. I certainly wouldn’t doubt that he can make it. Now if only we could get him the ball more on intermediate throws…