Ben Roethlisberger put a cap on a record-setting outing by completing a carry that proved to be just as vital, if not more so, as any one of the franchise-record 66 passes he managed to throw on the night.
As the Pittsburgh Steelers squad poured onto the Hurtz Field ground in celebration of their hard-fought 39-38 triumph over Baltimore that saw them successfully wrap up their third AFC North title within the short span of four years, it was Roethlisberger that thought to grab the significant No. 50 jersey belonging to injured linebacker Ryan Shazier and head out onto the turf with it.
What had proven to be an emotionally demanding week for the Steelers side came to a close with Shazier still confined to a nearby hospital, recovering from spinal surgery and yet still very much a part of the team's core spirit. As Roethlisberger put it afterward, they wanted to get this one for him. If that's the spirit that will prevail within the team's locker rooms, the Patriots' odds against the Steelers will be pretty interesting come next Sunday.
The Steelers didn't have an easy time of it, throwing away their 14-point lead to trail by 11 going into the final 15 minutes before digging deep to explode for 19 points topped of with Chris Boswell's literally last-minute 46-yard field goal.
The Steelers have done a lot to make sure Shazier, who suffered his injury during the first quarter of their ultimately triumphant matchup against Cincinnati on Monday, is still felt as a core presence on the team. James Harrison carried on his pre-game shirtless warmup tradition, even though temperatures were hovering just above freezing. His jersey and helmet had their place set out for them on the Steelers bench, with a number of players donning special cleats specially designed to feature Shazier's likeness coupled with the popular hashtag #Shalieve. Emotions were evidently running high, but the Steelers persevered to victory.
Setting Up For The Big Game
The Steelers' win, therefore, sets up the AFC game of the year set to come around next Sunday. They will be facing off against the defending champions, The New England Patriots, a team that managed to defeat them on not just one but two separate occasions in the course of last season - including a dismal 36-17 rout in the AFC title-determining game. Tom Brady's side has been rampant this season, and they haven't shown any signs of losing steam just yet. The Steelers look set for an uphill task.
The Pittsburgh side isn't showing any signs of despair, however, with center Maurkice Pouncey stating that with all the respect that is due to Brady's outfit, they are not invincible, and they aim to take their chance at victory.
The task of spearheading the charge will rest on the shoulders of the trio comprising Bell, Brown, and Roethlisberger, who have a motivated team willing to go the distance behind them, as their efforts against Baltimore proved. Let's wait and see if they'll be able to pull off something a bit special this time around.
AFC North Standings
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