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Friday, January 17, 2014
Plays that shaped Steelers' season: No. 1

By Scott Brown

We’ve arrived at the play that most shaped the Steelers’ season. Here is a look back at nine other plays that impacted the season.

No. 10: Le'Veon Bell rips off a 25-yard run on his first carry after losing a costly fumble at Green Bay.

No. 9: Shaun Suisham misses a 32-yard field goal in a 21-18 loss at Oakland.

No. 8: Emmanuel Sanders catches a 55-yard touchdown pass against the Jets to help the Steelers win their first game of the season.

No. 7: Vikings receiver Greg Jennings turns what should have been a short gain into a 70-yard touchdown catch.

No. 6: The Steelers sniff out a fake field goal by the Lions and stuff it in the fourth quarter at Heinz Field.

No. 5: Sanders drops a 2-point conversion pass that would have allowed the Steelers to tie the Ravens in Baltimore and likely force overtime.

No. 4: Antonio Brown returns a punt 67 yards for a touchdown, giving the Steelers a commanding 21-0 lead against the Bengals.

No. 3: Brown comes within inches of scoring a miraculous touchdown on the final play of the game  against the Dolphins.

No. 2: Raiders quarterbacks Terrelle Pryor runs 93 yards untouched for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage.

No. 1

Pouncey
The play: Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey went down with a devastating knee injury after right guard David DeCastro crashed into his right leg in the season opener.

The situation: The Steelers had been given a gift safety following a gaffe by Titans kick returner Darius Reynaud and were driving when disaster struck. DeCastro tried to cut block Titans defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill, but he missed and took out Pouncey. A hush fell over Heinz Field as medical personnel tended to Pouncey, and the injury turned out to be as bad as it looked. Pouncey suffered ACL and MCL tears, ending his season after just eight plays.

Why it mattered: The injury to Pouncey cost the Steelers their best offensive lineman, and its ripple effect is why no other play shaped the season more than this one. The Steelers, and DeCastro in particular, were shell-shocked following the loss of Pouncey, and the Titans pulled off a 16-9 upset. I firmly believe the Steelers would have won the season opener if not for the injury to Pouncey. The Steelers could not have done any better replacing Pouncey than they did with Fernando Velasco (and later after Cody Wallace took over for the injured Velasco). But the Steelers scrapped the outside zone-blocking scheme they had installed during the offseason. They also delayed using the no-huddle offense extensively after the loss of Pouncey, and that attack might have been the biggest reason why the Steelers went 6-2 in the second half of the season.