Steelers fans rode an emotional rollercoaster at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon and it ended in a pit of sadness.
Ben Roethlisberger faked a spike and tried a slant to Eli Rogers over the middle with seconds to play in their game against the Patriots. The ball was deflected by cornerback Eric Rowe and intercepted by Duron Harmon to put the icing on a 27-24 Patriots win that puts them into the top spot in the AFC playoff picture.
The interception came a couple of plays after the Steelers thought they had the game won. After a Dion Lewis touchdown with 55 seconds left in the game, JuJu Smith-Schuster took a short pass from Roethlisberger and went 69 yards to put the Steelers on the New England 10-yard-line. Roethlisberger found tight end Jesse James on the next play and James was ruled to have scored a touchdown, but the play was reversed to an incomplete pass when a review of the replay led to the ruling that the ball moved out of James’ grasp when he reached across the goal-line.
That swirl of emotions came after the Patriots erased an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter of the game. A fitful offensive day finally turned fruitful when Tom Brady hooked up with Rob Gronkowski on three catches covering 69 yards to set up Lewis for an eight-yard touchdown. Brady hit Gronkowski again for the two-point conversion to up the lead to three points and open things up for a wild ending.
All of this action came hours after Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, out after a spinal injury, made a surprise appearance at the game and got the crowd going by waving a Terrible Towel. That boost to everyone’s spirits was followed by Steelers wideout Antonio Brown leaving the game with a calf injury in the second quarter. Brown was eventually taken to the hospital and we await a further update on his condition.
The Steelers were able to remain productive on offense after Brown’s injury, but they punted twice after moving their lead to 24-16 on a Le'Veon Bell touchdown and that left the door open just enough for the Patriots to shake off their earlier doldrums and rally for a victory that could wind up making them the hosts for a playoff rematch.