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Prisuta's Top 10 Plays to Ponder

Posted Jan 25, 2018

Steelers put who they are on display repeatedly in 2017.

It ended short of where the Steelers had intended, but it was nonetheless memorable.

A 13-3 regular season, another AFC North Division championship, records set and recognition earned and received; all were a part of the journey that was 2017.

You probably have your favorite moments, your favorite plays along the way.

Following is a list of my Top 10 (in order of occurrence as opposed to importance):

Sept. 10, at Cleveland _ First-and-10, Steelers’ 29-yard line, 1:24, third quarter: Outside linebacker T.J. Watt dropped into coverage in the right flat, then climbed the ladder on the way to his first career interception on a pass Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer had thrown for wide receiver Kasen Williams. It was the type of play the Steelers’ No. 1 pick had first started making back in OTAs. Watt’s INT in Cleveland was part of an NFL debut that included six tackles, two sacks and a tackle on special teams in the Steelers’ 21-18, season-opening triumph. Welcome to the NFL.

Sept. 24, at Chicago _ First-and-10, Bears’ 18, 0:06, second quarter: Chris Boswell’s 35-yard field goal attempt was blocked and the Bears appeared to be on their way to scoring a touchdown on special teams. But punter/holder Jordan Berry and tight end Vance McDonald never gave up on the play. McDonald eventually chased down cornerback Marcus Cooper at the end of a 73-yard return and turned a touchdown into a touchback by forcing a fumble. The Steelers still lost the game, 23-17, in overtime. But their standard for hustle and determination was on display. Play to the echo of the whistle.

Oct. 15, at Kansas City _ Third-and-10, Steelers’ 40, 1:07, fourth quarter: Linebacker James Harrison’s sack of quarterback Alex Smith helped preserve a six-point lead on the way to a 19-13 victory. The matchup of Harrison against Kansas City left offensive tackle Eric Fisher played out just as the Steelers’ coaches had envisioned it would at a critical juncture. It ultimately didn’t end well for Harrison in Pittsburgh. But his last memorable play _ career sack No. 80.5 in a Steelers’ uniform, which extended his franchise record _ helped win an important game. Harrison and the Steelers will always have Tampa.

Oct. 29, at Detroit _ Third-and-9, Steelers’ 3, 3:15, third quarter: The Steelers were clinging to a 13-12 lead until quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster with a short pass over the middle and Smith-Schuster ran through the Lions’ secondary on the way to a 97-yard, catch-and-run touchdown. He finished with 193 yards receiving in a 20-15 win that also turned out to be the No. 2 pick’s coming out party. Beginning in Detroit, Smith-Schuster caught 41 passes for 696 yards over his final seven regular-season games after having managed 17 receptions for 221 yards over his first seven. Do that JuJu that you do so well.

Nov. 26, Green Bay _ Second-and-12, Packers’ 35, 0:04, fourth quarter: Boswell connected on a career-long, 53-yard field goal, the longest kicked in an NFL game in Heinz Field’s history, as time expired in regulation and the Steelers escaped, 31-28. It was the second of four game-winning kicks (within one minute of regulation or in overtime) Boswell delivered this season and one of four successful kicks in four attempts of 50-plus yards Boswell converted in 2017. The Wizard of Boz.

Dec. 10, Baltimore _ Third-and-4, Steelers’ 36, 1:08, fourth quarter: Roethlisberger’s 34-yard pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown moved the ball to the Ravens’ 30 and positioned the Steelers for Boswell’s game-winning field goal in a thrill-a-minute, 39-38 victory. Brown had plenty of other highlights _ the sideline catch he somehow made against Green Bay was probably his most amazing of the season _ but this one stood out because it was the latest example of what Brown is repeatedly capable of in critical situations against the Ravens. What can’t Brown do to them?

Dec. 17, New England _ Third-and-goal, Patriots’ 7, 0:09, fourth quarter: Roethlisberger’s fake-spike pass to wide receiver Eli Rogers was tipped and intercepted in the end zone. The turnover preserved New England’s 27-24 win. But like Mike Tomlin, I’ll take Roethlisberger trying to create in a chaotic situation with a game on the line above any other option any time. This, too, is an example of who the Steelers are. It was a throw Roethlisberger can make, but this time the pass was a little late and a little behind Rogers. That didn’t make the Steelers’ go-for-the-throat gusto in their all-out effort to once and for all slay the Patriots any less admirable. You play to win the game.

Dec. 25, at Houston _ First-and-goal, Steelers’ 3, 12:36, fourth quarter: Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins beat Steelers cornerback Joe Haden for a 3-yard touchdown reception, but it took one of the most spectacular catches of the season to pull it off. The play was one of many on which Haden battled Hopkins all game long. Haden gave as good as he got in that matchup and the Steelers otherwise dominated, 34-6. Haden’s engaging of Hopkins, one of the NFL’s best at his position, confirmed one more time what had fallen into the Steelers’ lap just prior to the conclusion of the preseason after Haden had been released by Cleveland. Merry Christmas.

Dec. 31, Cleveland _ Second-and-8, Browns’ 38, 13:36, fourth quarter: Defensive lineman Tyson Alualu’s sack of Kizer for a 7-yard loss was the Steelers’ sixth of the game and established a franchise-record 56 for the season. That’s a number the defense didn’t take lightly given the historical importance of defense to the franchise. It was appropriate Alualu came up with the record-breaking sack in the regular-season concluding, 28-24 win over the Browns given all that he’d contributed as the type of under-the-radar free agent the Steelers value. That’s the sack, Jack.

Jan. 14, Jacksonville _ First-and-goal, Jaguars’ 9, 2:17, fourth quarter: Roethlisberger’s lateral to running back Le’Veon Bell after a 1-yard scramble, and Bell’s ability to navigate the remaining 8 yards necessary to keep hope alive against the Jaguars revealed what can still happen when Roethlisberger improvises a little back-yard magic. The Steelers eventually lost, 45-42, but their talent, explosiveness and creativity on offense was evident throughout. Big Ben strikes and the Bell tolls for thee.