How T.J. Watt and Steelers kept playoff hopes alive by stopping Ravens late

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Twenty-four minutes after the game ended, Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt got on the phone to describe what happened next.

“Sorry for my hoarse voice,” he said, “but I’ve been yelling and screaming. I’m all sorts of out of breath here too, still.”

Watt: “We see they’re going for two, and it’s not really anything that our guys were shocked by. They’re a team that likes to take chances and go for it on fourth down. I fully respect their decision, especially with Lamar. But the two-point play is something we take pride in stopping. Every week in the practice—and all the time in training camp—we work on it. We call it ‘Seven shots.’ Seven shots the offense gets to score from the 2. So it’s something we definitely are prepared for. This week, our offense used multiple guys [to simulate Jackson] on the scout team. Ray-Ray McCloud, one of our quick receivers, went and did some reps. We were prepared.

“The fans were going absolutely crazy. Terrible Towels waving like crazy. Just a special atmosphere. But once the play’s called, and you know your assignment, you just lock in, and it’s football.”

I told Watt it looked like his assignment, at left end, was to not let Jackson get outside, and to pressure him without him juking and getting getting free.

“That’s exactly it,” he said, “but you know. It’s no easy task.”

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers
Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt. (Getty Images)

Watt went upfield at the snap to close off Jackson’s outside rush lane, as Baltimore tight end Mark Andrews sprinted to the right behind the line across the formation. Watt then lunged toward Jackson, who knew he was going to have to throw it just a tick sooner than he wanted because of Watt in his face. “The play I replayed in my head all week was Lamar pump-faking me last year in Baltimore and beating me for a 14-, 15-yard scramble. So in this scenario, I just want stay on my feet and get my outside arm up to try to influence him, change his angle.”

Watt did that. Jackson dropped down and made a sidearm-flick, evading Watt’s hot breath, and the ball floated toward an open Andrews.

“It all happened so fast,” Watt said. “I know I’m not getting to him, so I want to affect the play as much as I can. Did I affect his throw? I don’t know.”

“GREAT PLAY CALL!” Tony Romo yelled, meanwhile, on CBS.

Andrews got his big left hand on the ball at the 2. A catch, and Andrews walks in for the winning points, and the Ravens own the division. An incompletion, and every team in the division has six, seven or eight wins, and a sprint to the finish.

The ball was inches too far. Incomplete. As Romo said, “One inch from Baltimore going to 9-3. Instead, the Steelers are alive.”

Pittsburgh, 6-5-1, is alive, but in for a funky week. The Steelers fly to Minnesota on Wednesday for their Thursday night requirement (every teams plays at least one) game against the Vikings. Tough to go on the road in a very short week after the semi-annual slugfest with the Ravens. Nothing’s easy for the Steelers this year, and the road to the playoffs won’t be either.

Read more from Peter King’s Football Morning in America column