By: Will Graves
Mike Tomlin sat down, smiled and let out a sarcastic laugh.
“Had ’em all the way, right?” the longtime Pittsburgh Steelers coach said after his team slipped past Chicago 29-27 on Monday night.
Not after a 10-point fourth-quarter lead turned into a one-point deficit following a fumble by punt returner Ray-Ray McCloud and a flash of brilliance by Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields, who put Chicago in front with a 16-yard strike to Darnell Mooney with 1:46 to go.
Steelers rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth hardly seemed rattled. Sure, the Bears had the lead. But the Steelers had Ben Roethlisberger.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” said Freiermuth, who caught a pair of touchdown passes. “Ben’s been doing this for a long time. We’re all confident in each other. I was thinking in my mind when they scored, ‘It’s too much time (left).’”
And there was.
Roethlisberger guided the Steelers 52 yards in seven plays — abetted by Chicago’s 12th penalty of the night — to set up Chris Boswell’s 40-yard field goal with 26 seconds left, and Pittsburgh won its fourth straight after a 1-3 start.
“We’re finding ways to win the game,” Roethlisberger said. “Played well enough. Not great. But offensively speaking, we’re just doing enough right now.”
Roethlisberger completed 21 of 30 passes for 205 yards and the two scores to Freiermuth while pulling off the 50th game-winning drive and 38th fourth-quarter comeback of his 18-year career. Rookie running back Najee Harris found the end zone for the fifth straight game and Boswell made three field goals — including two from over 50 yards — into the open end at perpetually windy Heinz Field.
“Boz is a serial killer,” Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward said. “He’s too calm.”
Boswell might have been the only one relaxed after the Steelers frittered away a seemingly comfortable lead when McCloud gave the ball up on a punt return midway through the fourth quarter that DeAndre Houston-Carson returned 25 yards for a touchdown to pull the Bears within three.
Things got weird from there. Chicago appeared to get a stop on Pittsburgh’s ensuing possession only to have linebacker Cassius Marsh — who spent training camp with the Steelers — get flagged for taunting after sacking Roethlisberger on third down.
Marsh’s celebration looked relatively innocuous, though the league has cracked down on any semblance of taunting this season.
“I saw the player, after he made a big play, run toward the bench area of the Pittsburgh Steelers and posture in such a way that I felt he was taunting them,” referee Tony Corrente said.
Marsh’s teammates came to his defense, with linebacker Roquan Smith calling the penalty “BS.” Marsh shrugged his shoulders.
“It’s just sad to see stuff like that happen in a close game like that,” he said. “It’s just rough. I don’t want to say too much because you all know how it is.”
The call extended Pittsburgh’s drive and allowed the Steelers to take a 26-20 lead with 2:52 remaining.