This is another in a periodic series recapping some of the memorable moments from the 2014 season.*
Today: The special teams.
Dec. 28, Cincinnati: The impact the Steelers had been hoping to glean all season from their return game finally materialized when they needed it most. WR Antonio Brown settled under a punt and darted 71 yards for a touchdown, and in the process jump-started what became a 27-17, division-clinching victory over the Bengals. Brown's career-long punt return was his third for a touchdown and it tied him with Ray Mathews and Louis Lipps for the second-most in Steelers' history. Antwaan Randle-El is first with four.
Sept. 7, Cleveland: With the game tied at 27-27 and 9:28 left in the fourth quarter, the Steelers rolled the dice on fourth-and-10 from the Pittsburgh 20-yard line. Golden, one of the personal protectors in punt formation, wound up throwing a pass to CB Antwon Blake, a gunner on the punt team. It went for 25 yards and a first down. The play didn't figure in the game-winning drive in an eventual 30-27 triumph, but it helped change field position and keep the Browns at bay until K Shaun Suisham's last-play, 41-yard field goal.
Sept. 21, at Carolina:The punt team changed the scoreboard. With the Steelers leading, 23-13, early in the fourth quarter, P Brad Wing's 59-yard effort was muffed by WR Philly Brown, who recovered but fumbled at the Carolina 10-yard line after being hit by S Shamarko Thomas. The ball bounced into the end zone, where it was recovered by S Robert Golden for a touchdown. That quick touchdown allowed the Steelers' lead to become 30-13 on the way to a 37-19 victory.
The last-play, game-winning kick against Cleveland was far from Suisham's only 2014 highlight. His three field goals in the Steelers' win over the Panthers (42, 24 and 45 yards) set a franchise record for most consecutive field goals made at 23, a mark Suisham would extend to 24 the following Sunday. Suisham finished 2014 with a career-high 132 points, the third-highest single-season total in franchise history, and with an NFL-best streak of 30 consecutive field goals made from 40-49 yards.
Jan. 3, Baltimore: The Steelers trailed in their Wild Card Round game against the Ravens, 30-15, and only two minutes remained. But that didn't stop Thomas from coming as hard as he could on fourth-and-8 from the Baltimore 22 and blocking Sam Koch's punt out of the end zone for a safety, the final tally in Baltimore's 30-17 win. Thomas became the first Steelers player with a blocked punt in a playoff game since Jerry Olsavsky in 1989 at Houston.
Nov. 2, Baltimore: The plan had been to kick the extra point after a 47-yard touchdown catch by WR Markus Wheaton had given the Steelers a 20-10 lead with 53 seconds left in the second quarter. But after the exchange from LS Greg Warren to holder Brad Wing didn't go as the Steelers had intended, they did the next best thing. Wing rolled out and found TE Matt Spaeth for a two-point conversion on the way to a 43-23 rout of Baltimore.