Steelers Turning Point: A Little Luck Bounces the Steelers Way

Following each game in the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers season, I will highlight the event or string of events in the game that is the turning point. Not all turning points will be earth-shattering but are meant to give a unique look at how we arrived at the outcome of the game, one that may be hard to see during the first live watch.

It feels good to finally win one. After three calendar weeks without the feeling of victory, it was starting to get ugly in Steelers Nation. As the old saying goes, “winning cures all” and the New Orleans Saints were just what the doctor ordered.

While the game ended in a relatively comfortable fashion for the Steelers, there were still some tight moments throughout that kept this game close through three quarters.

Even with how poorly the Steelers have looked this year, after allowing a Saints game-tying touchdown with only 19 seconds left in the first half, the general feeling coming out of halftime is that the Steelers were letting an inferior team hang around. That feeling would only continue through the third quarter when the Steelers’ offense put together back-to-back 10+ play drives totaling 64 and 83 yards respectively with only three points to show for it.

That’s not to say the Steelers shouldn’t have had more points. Najee Harris had a chance to cap off the first of those drives with a touchdown on what was likely Kenny Pickett’s best throw of the day. Harris was able to get some space thanks to a rub route where he was running a wheel against a linebacker. The ball is put right on his hands, but he wasn’t able to pull it in. Definitely a high-difficulty catch from a running back, but one he has to make.

That was immediately followed up by newly-signed kicker, Matthew Wright, missing a 39-yard field goal.

A drive that should have ended in seven, going to three, then none, was tough to swallow.

If the Steelers weren’t able to hold on to this one, that would have been the drive to point to at the end of the day. Thankfully, their defense showed up in the second half allowing only a single first down on their first two drives and quickly getting the ball back to the Pittsburgh offense.

After the Steelers, field goal drive that put them up 13-10 early in the fourth quarter is when this week’s turning point would take place.

On 3rd & 5, on their own 30-yard line, Saints quarterback, Andy Dalton, wanted to attack the middle of the field. He liked what he saw on the right side where the WRs were running a “dagger” concept, with a bender in the slot attacking the middle of the field and a deep dig coming from the outside receiver.

With the 2-high shell, all the underneath coverage defenders were playing man with an inside shade. The idea is that it puts the quarterback in the situation of having to throw over a defender in order to complete the pass. In this case, it works to perfection. Dalton throws the dig high, causing the WR to tip it into the arms of the charging safety, Damontae Kazee.

It’s a fantastic play by Kazee. He wastes no time reading the eyes of Dalton, clicking, and closing. If the WR was able to bring this in initially he was about to receive a nasty hit, but instead, the ball was there for Kazee and he finishes the play. Pittsburgh’s defensive backs’ failure to finish plays has sunk the Steelers multiple times this season already. This one completely changed the complexion of the game.

However, we have a part two to our turning point this week. The very next play Offensive Coordinator, Matt Canada, called Pittsburgh’s favorite play, a shotgun toss, and while the play call wasn’t necessarily at fault for the outcome, it did result in a Najee Harris fumble.

Thanks to a few lucky bounces and a heads up Chukwuma Okorafor, the Steelers were able to retain possession on an eventual touchdown drive that would put them up 10 points in the fourth quarter, effectively salting this game away. This play may be overlooked by some, but it could have breathed new life into the Saints and acted as a sucker punch to the Pittsburgh defense who just had an emotional takeaway.

It’s a bit ironic that the Steelers’ two turning points of the week came on what some could consider “lucky” plays with a WR batting a ball up in the air and a fumble bouncing the team’s way right after. Just last week, the Steelers were dubbed the “NFL’s luckiest team” through the midway point of the season. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good and this team is still far from good. Hopefully, a few more lucky bounces can translate to the team’s win column as we get deeper into the second half of the season.

What did you feel was the turning point of the game? Leave your thoughts and comments below!

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