4. December 5, 2004
Big Ben = Comeback Kid
Steelers 17 – Jaguars 16
The Steelers came into their Week 13 matchup with Jacksonville riding high with a record of 10-1. Then Rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger had led the team to 9 consecutive wins after filling in for injured starter Tommy Maddox in Week 2. The Jaguars were a team on the rise, and then 2nd year Head Coach Jack Del Rio was finding success as the architect of Jacksonville’s rebuilding project. At that point in the 2004 regular season, the Jaguars were 6-5 and in the mix for a Wild Card Playoff berth so they were in need of as many wins as they could possibly get. I’ll never forget watching this game because it was televised on ESPN for Sunday Night Football, and it was a perfect opportunity for a prime-time and exhilarating game to take place. Looking back now, I can say with full honesty that both teams did not disappoint in bringing a fantastic game to those of us which were lucky enough to watch it that night.
The Steelers came storming out of the gate on their first drive of the game and went 77 yards in 7 plays to strike first on a 37 yard TD pass from Big Ben to WR Hines Ward. Jacksonville was apparently not impressed and their then up-and-coming QB Byron Leftwich took the Jaguars 73 yards on 12 plays on the following possession to tie the score on a 22 yard pass to former Steeler WR Troy Edwards! How the Hell Troy Edwards performed so well in this game baffled and angered me to no end. The complete and total bust that the Steelers had drafted in the 1st Round in 1999 finished the game with 5 catches for 90 yards and that TD! Needless to say I had some choice words for Edwards that my Mom didn’t appreciate as I was watching the game at my folks house.
Ben didn’t seem fazed at all by the Jaguars clock eating drive and he moved the Steelers 72 yards in 10 plays on the following drive that lasted into the 2nd Quarter. Big Ben then fired a 26 yard strike to his backup TE Jay Riemersma with just over 11 minutes to play before Half Time to put the Steelers up 14-7 and the score remained the same at Half Time. The Steelers had a tenuous lead, but I figured that they would eventually pull through and put the Jaguars in their place. I could not have been more wrong with that assumption and the 2nd Half proved to be a nail-biter.
Jacksonville took their opening possession of the 2nd Half 96 yards on 9 plays and cut the Steelers’ lead to 14-10 on a 20 yard Josh Scobee Field Goal. The Jaguars coming up short in the Red Zone was a persistent theme that night as the Steelers’ Defense “nutted up” and held onto the lead for as long as they could. Scobee added another Field Goal near the end of the 3rd Quarter from 29 yards, and as the final 15 minutes of play started Jacksonville was down only 14-13. I’ll never forget being worried beyond belief because the Steelers outside of their first two drives of the game had nothing going on Offense. Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis were being stifled all game long (Staley finished with 17 carries for 51 yards and Bettis had 3 carries for 20 yards) and Pittsburgh’s Offense stalled in the 3rd and most of the 4th Quarter. As Jacksonville creeped ever closer to the Steelers’ lead I just held out hope that the Pittsburgh would find a way to score again.
The game remained 14-13 until late in the 4th Quarter when Leftwich led a 12 play 62 yard drive that got the Jaguars into field goal range. But again, Jacksonville was denied a TD, and they were forced to settle for a 36 yard Field Goal by Scobee to put them ahead 16-14 with just under 2 minutes remaining. Many Rookie QB’s facing odds like Big Ben was that night, 1:47 to play, inside of his own 30 yard line, and needing 3 points to win, would have pissed their pants and run home to their Mommies (looking at you Philip Rivers). Yet this was Ben Roethlisberger and he moved his team into field goal range in only 6 plays on a drive that took just over a minute and a half off of the clock! Skippy Reed entered the game, and like so many times in his career was money! Skip hit a 37 yard Field Goal with just over 20 seconds to play! Game over, right Steeler Nation?
Wrong! In a sequence of events that probably would have sent me to the hospital at age 17 with an aneurysm had they actually pulled it off, Leftwich had 18 seconds to work with and calmly moved his team to the outskirts of Field Goal range and Scobee entered the game to try to kick the game-winner from 60 yards as time expired. I figured at the time, “No way, no way the dude makes it. He’s a good kicker, but no way, no leg.” Well I was wrong, Scobee had the leg, and watching the ball go through the thick December air of a Jacksonville night I couldn’t believe my eyes, the damn ball looked like it was going to make it over the crossbar! In a stroke of luck however, the ball sailed just wide right and the game ended in a Steeler victory, 17-16!
I mean Scobee’s kick had enough leg, it was just wide. I remember he kicked one about 60 yards as time expired last season against the Colts and when I saw the highlight all I could think of was this game. Regardless, this game belonged to one guy and one guy alone: Ben Roethlisberger. The then Rookie finished the night an efficient 14 of 17 for 221 and 2 TD’s plus the game winning drive. It was shades of their comeback win earlier in the season at Dallas and really illustrated the late-game heroics of the bad-ass known as Big Ben.