Steelers walk a fine line in difference-making plays

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Out of the 1,000-plus plays a team runs each season, two or three can make the difference in a final record -- either way.

8-8 instead of 10-6

Two plays from the 2012 Steelers season that could be seen as the difference between 8-8 -- which they were -- and 10-6 -- which they could have been.

1 With less than 10 minutes to play vs. Dallas in Game 14 and the Steelers ahead, 24-17, the Cowboys must punt. Antonio Brown returns the ball 22 yards to midfield and into position where the Steelers can run some clock, but is stripped of the ball. Dallas recovers, gains the momentum, ties the score seven plays later and wins in overtime.

2 With the score tied vs. the Bengals in Game 15, less than 20 seconds to play and the Steelers looking at no worse than overtime in a game they need to win for the chance at a wild card, Ben Roethlisberger overthrows Mike Wallace from his own 29-yard line and is interceptied by Cincinnati's Reggie Nelson. There would be no OT. Nelson's returrn sets up a winning field goal for the Bengals on the final play of the game.

8-8 instead of 6-10

Two plays from the 2012 Steelers season that could be seen as the difference between 8-8 -- which they were -- and 6-10 -- which they could have been.

1 The Steelers trail the Giants, 20-10, in Game 8. Ben Roethlisberger faces third-and-five at midfield. A short pass over the mddle to Mike Wallace turns it into one of the longest plays of the season. He races across midfield and then outruns every defender to the end zone. It cuts their deficit to 20-17 with nearly the entire fourth quarter to play. Down by only one score instead of two, the Steelers are able to control the ball through the rest of the period and ultimately win thanks to an Ike Redman 1-yard TD run that caps a 10-play, time consuming drive.

2 Leading the Steelers, 20-13, in Game 12, the Ravens face third-and-5 at their own 32 with less than 11 minutes to play. They either convert the third down or at very least punt the ball away and force the Steelers to drive most of the field to tie behind backup QB Charlie Batch, pictured at right. Instead, James Harrison not only sacks Ravens QB Joe Flacco, but forces him to fumble. Ziggy Hood recovers. Instead of having to go the length of the field, Batch needs just four plays and 2 minutes, 17 seconds to tie a game the Steelers then win on a Shaun Suisam FG with no time remaining.



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