Are the Steelers fixed? Will the Cowboys win the NFC East? Judging NFL overreactions

  • Joined ESPN in 2011
  • New Jersey native and author of two published novels

PITTSBURGH — You can watch one exciting half of one football game and it can convince you everything you’ve seen for the past month was wrong. This is what we do as NFL observers. It is the lifeblood of our weekly overreactions column.

Example: The Steelers were done. I mean, done. They looked done all through December, especially done when they lost to the Bengals last Monday and downright overdone Sunday afternoon when they trailed the Colts 24-7 late in the third quarter and couldn’t get into the end zone on four straight tries from inside the 2-yard line. They had no run game. Ben Roethlisberger was making awful throw after awful throw. Done with a capital “D” and that rhymes with “E” and that stands for “Early playoff exit.”

And then, just like that, they weren’t.

After the Colts’ goal-line stand, the Steelers’ defense stiffened and forced a punt, which the Steelers returned to the Colts’ 39-yard line. And on the very next play, Roethlisberger found Diontae Johnson with an out-of-nowhere Picasso of a throw for a touchdown that cut the lead to 10 points.

A switch had flipped. Suddenly, the Colts could do nothing on offense and the Steelers, who had racked up just 95 yards in a sleepy first half, couldn’t be stopped. Roethlisberger threw touchdown passes to Eric Ebron and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the fourth quarter and Pittsburgh came back to win 28-24, clinching its first AFC North title in three years.

When it was over, Smith-Schuster came over for his postgame interview with us and explained that Roethlisberger had given a halftime speech in which he told the team it didn’t look as though they were having any fun. So, they went out in the second half and had a bunch of it.

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