Often times there is a fine line between winning and losing games in the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers have certainly been on the wrong side of that line in their first four games. Each and every play has the potential of turning a game around and below are ten plays in animated gif form that are easy to point to that helped to contribute the Steelers 0-4 start.
In the opener against the Tennessee Titans, the Steelers were poised to take a 9-0 lead when running back Isaac Redman failed to control a handoff from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The ball was fumbled forward into the end zone on third and one from the Titans 6 yard-line and it allowed the opposing offense to stay conservative for pretty much the rest of the game. There is of course no guarantee the Steelers win the game had they scored, but you certainly would have liked their chances all things considered.
Against the Cincinnati Bengals in week two, the Steelers were up 3-0 when tight end David Paulson fumbled at the end of a long completion that would have had the offense set up inside the red zone. Instead, the turnover led to the Bengals taking the lead and it was huge momentum shift in the game.
Following the fumble by Paulson, Steelers safety Ryan Clark was burned by tight end Tyler Eifert for a 61 yard completion right down the middle of the field. Clark bit on the fake by Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and thus the seam was wide open. Two plays later the Bengals had the lead.
With the score tied at 10 in the third quarter against the Bengals, Roethlisberger hit wide receiver Antonio Brown for a gain of 33 yards. However, the play was called back because tackle Marcus Gilbert was flagged for tripping. Roethlisberger proceeded to get sacked on third down and long following the penalty and the Bengals took the lead for good on their ensuing possession.
Against the Bears, running back Matt Forte busted off right guard for 55 yards against the Steelers following a missed tackle by Clark and a failed strip by William Gay. A few plays later and the Bears had a 17-0 lead.
With the Steelers down 17-3 midway through the second quarter to the Bears, Roethlisberger was forced to get rid of a pass intended for wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery because of heavy pressure and safety Major Wright easily intercepted it and returned it for a touchdown. The Steelers turned the ball over five times in the game, but this one was perhaps the costliest one of them all.
While it might not have felt like it at the time, the third down scramble by Bears quarterback Jay Cutler for a first down with 9:15 left in the game ended up being a huge play. The Steelers defense was looking to make a stop that would have likely resulted in a field goal and a Bears seven point lead with plenty of time remaining. Not only did Cutler’s scramble extend the drive, it led to a touchdown and in the process it killed another three minutes worth of clock.
Early in the loss to the Minnesota Vikings, wide receiver Greg Jennings took a seven yard pass 63 more yards for a touchdown after cornerback Cortez Allen failed to bring him down. Allen wasn’t the only one on defense to take a poor angle on the play as both Gay and safety Robert Golden also failed to cover for the original miss.
Keeping with the explosive play and missed tackles theme, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson scored from 60 yards out with 12:42 left in the half. On the play, safety Troy Polamalu was crack blocked by Vikings wide receiver Joe Webb and several Steelers defensive players joined in to miss tackles.
Despite everything that had transpired in the game, the Steelers offense still had a chance to tie the game with 19 seconds left in regulation. Roethlisberger, however, was sacked on third down by Vikings defensive tackle Everson Griffen, who had beaten guard Kelvin Beachum to the outside gap. Roethlisbeger couldn’t throw the ball away and fumbled instead.
These of course aren’t the only plays that have led to the Steelers being winless, so I invite you to point out a few others.