If you really think about it, there isn’t all that much that separates this season from many other years in Ben Roethlisberger’s career. The majority of the games end in close scores with the victor decided in the fourth quarter.
Sure, the scores may on average be higher, partly due to the defense slipping with the injection of some inexperience in favor of aging veterans, but on the whole, even this season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have often been in the games they’ve lost.
One of the big differences has been the seeming disappearance of Ben Roethlisberger’s late-game heroics.
That is part of what made this victory over the Detroit Lions as exhilarating as it was, for the hope that it represented something more: the idea that Roethlisberger, now in a rhythm, has rediscovered that magic.
There really is no way to determine the validity of such an observation other than to wait for it to play out, but this fourth-quarter comeback was extra satisfying given how some of the other games this season finished.
Even dating back to last season, after he recovered from his injuries, he essentially sealed losses against the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals with worrying late-game interceptions.
Against the Chicago Bears, Roethlisberger pulled the Steelers to within four before the defense gave up a touchdown. The Steelers’ last three drives ended with a Roethlisberger fumble that was returned for a touchdown, a turnover on downs, and an interception.
The following week, Roethlisberger had a chance to tie the game in London against the Minnesota Vikings until he took a sack on third and goal and fumbled the ball, recovered by the Vikings.
Even against the New England Patriots, Roethlisberger helped bring the Steelers back from a large deficit to tie the game before the offense and defense both completely stalled in the fourth quarter.
Over the last few years, Roethlisberger does not have too many fourth-quarter comebacks and overtime victories. Not the way it used to be. The Steelers lived by the late-game magic the last time they won the Super Bowl in 2008.
Is this a sign of Roethlisberger starting to regain some of the form that he lost when he went down with a shoulder injury last season? Over the last three games, he has thrown for 971 yards, nine touchdowns, and three interceptions, averaging 7.9 yards per attempt.
With Will Johnson and Jerricho Cotchery accounting for the last two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the Steelers now know again that they can win close games. But will they?