JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s fumble from the wild field with 32 seconds left sealed the New Orleans Saints‘ 31-28 win that knocked Pittsburgh a half-game supporting the Baltimore Ravens from the AFC North standings.
It was a catastrophic drama for a receiver who is tremendous throughout the year.
But catastrophic losses and plays one of the league’s most talented teams sitting in 8-6-1, as a result of three December losses by three points.
“For it to return just like this every week, it stinks,” said Smith-Schuster, who finished with 115 yards on 11 catches but had been clearly dejected from the lockerroom, sitting at his uniform well after most teammates’d showered.
Even the Steelers knew their playoff hopes hinged largely about what happened in New Orleans, also on Sunday, they played like it. They were both desperate, motivated, bold, exciting.
These certainly weren’t perfect, though. That’s about what it took to overcome the Saints from the Mercedes‐Benz Superdome.
In possibly their gutsiest performance of the season, a wild game from begin to finish, the Steelers couldn’t over come a small number of mistakes against a team this good.
The Steelers will be dangerous at those playoffs. But per week 1 tie in Cleveland and a Week 14 loss in Oakland probably set their playoff expects to bed. Now they need Baker Mayfield‘s magic at per week 17 game in Baltimore to force the Ravens in to relinquishing the divisional lead. The Steelers host the Cincinnati Bengals in the home.
Coach Mike Tomlin’s decision to pretend a punt with 4:06 left backfired, and surely will be contested. The Steelers were in their particular 42 on fourth-and-5 when full-back Roosevelt Nix took the snap and bulldozed over the middle, not exactly getting to the first-down markers.
The defense gave up a third-and-20 at the last minutes.
“You have got to give that team credit… They made their talk of plays, also we all did not quite make enough,” safety Morgan Burnett said.
Have to find a solution to put ourselves at a much better position.”
The game wont be without controversy. At a game this closing, the image of Joe Haden gently patting Alvin Kamara on the in coverage of a firstquarter pass that had a chance at capturing will fume Steelers fans for days. Haden’s penalty, an extremely suspicious telephone , turned a would-be stop on fourth-and-2 to a 33-yard punishment into the Saints’ 1-yard lineup, which Mark Ingram converted in to a racing score.
Or, there’s that fourth-and-2 interference telephone on Haden at the last minutes that looked debatable. Haden broke up a pass but officials phoned him for grabbing from behind.
“It’s what it is, man. It’s an offensive game,” Haden said. “You can not touch these guys.”
On offense, Pittsburgh switched to the two players who’ve won clutch games for the team often times before — Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger, who dazzled from the second half as Pittsburgh went to a near-all-passing attack.
Roethlisberger had been near-flawless with 380 yards on 33-of-50 departure and three touchdowns, and Brown continued to spin around Marcus Lattimore for 185 yards and two touchdowns on 14 catches.
Between the second and third quarters, the Steelers’ offense broke off scoring drives of 97, 75 and 66 yards with just five racing efforts, none in the 3rd quarter.
In what are his throw of the season, Roethlisberger divide two defenders with a back-of-the-end-zone dart to some streaking Brown late in the next quarter.
And the game had tilted Pittsburgh’s manner when linebacker L.J. Fort blocked New Orleans’ field goal attempt with 6:13 left to guard a 28-24 lead. The Saints were moving the ball swiftly, but Pittsburgh locked up inside the 40. The Steelers got three notable second half stops one of the match’s greatest crimes.
It was not enough.
And without much-needed hope and some fortune in Week 17, the Steelers will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
“The story isn’t written yet. I told the guys in there — I said,’Listen, it’s not over ; that this chapter of the story’s never done,” Roethlisberger said. “Obviously we do not restrain it, but let us see what goes on.”