NEW CASTLE —
Let’s give credit where credit is due.
We’ve all seen that multiple-lateraling, fumblerooski-type of play from scrimmage or on a kickoff return at the end of some game virtually every week.
Ever since the Cal Bears forever cemented it into the collective consciousness of sports fans with their legendary return against the Stanford band back in 1982, that play has only so very rarely come close to working.
Some would argue that it didn’t even work that day, with at least one and maybe two of Cal’s laterals being illegal. Same with the second-most famous of the lateraling returns, the “Music City Miracle” by the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs nearly 14 years ago.
In yesterday’s 34-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field, the Pittsburgh Steelers nearly pulled it off, giving a great run at a game-winning lateralpalooza of their own.
Trailing by six on his own 26 with one second on a dying clock, Ben Roethlisberger took the snap and fired about 15 yards out to Emmanuel Sanders, who lateraled back to Jerricho Cotchery, who tossed it to head coach Mike Tomlin, who then flipped it a short distance back to Le’Veon Bell.
So far, so good. This is where things got very interesting.
Bell whipped a nice pass back to massive right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who generally only gets his hands near the ball when he is helping a shaken Roethlisberger up after being bull-rushed for a sack.
Gilbert nimbly danced his 330-pound frame a few steps before dishing it off to Roethlisberger at the 31. Instead of lateraling back to Antonio Brown, who was waiting on the 30, Big Ben threw it forward to the 33, where Brown grabbed it and made a mad dash for the end zone.
Inexplicably, or at best barely explicably, Brown stepped out at the Miami 12 before scoring, for a brief moment, what seemed to be a season-saving touchdown.
It should have all been for naught anyway as, go figure, the quarterback had made the only bad pass on the play. (But hey, at least he had no interceptions again and is in the middle of the longest pick-less streak of his career!)
You know it is bad news when about the only good news on the afternoon was a play that, had Roethlisberger’s illegal forward pass been assessed, would have resulted in no gain.
While the Steelers flirted with making something of their season after all over the past two months, their playoff hopes were doomed by an 0-4 start and buried by yesterday’s results.
As if blowing a fourth-quarter lead at home in wintry weather against a mediocre team from Florida weren’t bad enough, Baltimore scored three touchdowns in the final 2:05 against Minnesota to put another nail, a few deadbolts, a horse’s head and some Gorilla Glue in and around Pittsburgh’s postseason coffin.
Technically the Steelers aren’t eliminated yet, but technically the Cleveland Browns might win the Super Bowl one day, too. The odds of either happening are the same. (Sorry, schadenfreude for the less fortunate is the only solace for Steelers fans today).
We should have known that this one was going to be another loser when Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, whose highest rushing total in an entire game this season was 48 yards, somehow managed to channel his inner Terrelle Pryor and sprint precisely 48 yards on one play on a snowy turf through the Pittsburgh defensive backfield.
Granted, Tannehill burned secondary guys aged 43, 56 and 67 on that run, but c’mon, for the afternoon he almost rushed for as many yards (56) as did Bell (61).
Oh, thanks to Tomlin’s shenanigans in Baltimore last game, Pittsburgh also lost a draft pick on the day! Here we go, Steelers!
Come to think of it, too bad Tomlin didn’t actually take part on all the last-second lateraling. Considering their recent drafting failures, losing an additional pick (preferably an early-rounder this time) in 2014 would probably help the team.
Ryan Clark summed up the day, and ultimately the season, beautifully:
“When you are banking on Marcus Gilbert handling the ball for you to win the game,” said the veteran safety, “that means you haven’t done what you were supposed to do earlier.”
Like, since opening day.
(Steve Treu covers the Steelers for The News.)
NEW CASTLE —
Let’s give credit where credit is due.
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