ARLINGTON, Texas – If the Steelers are going down this season, they are going down with a fight.
They will not go gently into the night.
The statistics sheet showed that Pittsburgh’s first touchdown Sunday came when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a short pass to his right and tight end Heath Miller took the ball for a 30-yard score.
In reality, it was so much more than that.
When Roethlisberger finally decides to hang up his football cleats and a highlight package of his career is put together, his touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes in the closing minutes of Super Bowl XLIII will certainly be there as a defining moment.
So, too, will his touchdown pass to Miller at the end of the first half in a 27-24 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
With the Steelers struggling to get much going offensively and trailing 10-3, Roethlisberger did what he does best. He maneuvered the Steelers into scoring range in the closing moments of the first half while working out of the no-huddle offense.
On second-and-10 from the Dallas 30-yard line, Roethlisberger took the snap from Maurkice Pouncey and pump faked. He then spun in a complete circle to escape pressure, pump faked again and backed up in the pocket to escape more pressure.
Finally, nine seconds later, Roethlisberger threw the short pass to Miller, who got free in coverage by Roethlisberger’s theatrics.
It was vintage Roethlisberger.
“They went into a prevent defense, so the play that was called wasn’t a good call at all,” Roethlisberger explained. “I went to throw it over the middle. At the last minute, I saw Heath on the sideline and tried to get it to him and let him do the rest.”
And Roethlisberger wasn’t done.
After the Cowboys scored to go ahead, 17-10, midway through the third quarter, Roethlisberger threw a 60-yard bomb to Mike Wallace to set up a one-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Dwyer to tie the score.
It was the kind of effort needed by Roethlisberger and the offense, especially with the Pittsburgh defense being down two of its top three cornerbacks.
Things were so dire for the Steelers, who also lost starting cornerback Keenan Lewis in the fourth quarter to a hip injury and reserve DeMarcus Van Dyke early in the first half, that rookie safety Robert Golden was pressed into action as a slot corner on passing downs.
With those issues, the offense knew it had to carry the day, something it failed to do when Roethlisberger’s interception in overtime set up Dallas for the game-winning field goal.
While it proved to be in a losing effort, at least the Steelers showed signs of life they did not put forth in last weekend’s 34-24 home loss to San Diego.
“There won’t be any quit from us, especially from me,” Roethlisberger said.
With Baltimore continuing to fade – having lost three in a row – and Cincinnati coming to Pittsburgh for a key game Sunday, the Steelers still control their own destiny.
Win the final two games – both at home – and the Steelers will be in the playoffs.
“Ain’t nobody feeling sorry for us,” nose tackle Casey Hampton said. “We had an opportunity to make plays. We just didn’t do it. ... At the end of the day, we still control our own destiny. We can’t ask for more than that. We still have these last two.”
They will need to play better than they have over the last month, but the performance against Dallas was a step in the right direction.
The only question now is have they waited too long and given away too many games to make a difference?
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.