Wild season of football at Heinz Field
With the home portion of the Pittsburgh Steelers schedule now history, let’s take a quick look back at some 2019 Heinz Field memories…
Any hopes for a Super Bowl season ended when Ben Roethlisberger went to the sidelines with less than four minutes remaining in the first half of the Seattle game holding his right elbow. When the trainers and doctors accompanied Roethlisberger to the locker room moments before halftime, the Steelers season seemingly went with him.
Mason Rudolph started in Roethlisberger’s place in the second half, completing 12 of 19 passes for 112 yards. Rudolph’s three-yard scoring pass to tight end Vance McDonald with 5:34 remaining, cut the Seahawks lead to two, 28-26. That was as close as the Steelers would get, as they dropped to 0-2.
Within 48 hours of the game’s completion, Roethlisberger would have season-ending (career-ending?) elbow surgery. For all intents and purposes, it just became a matter of survival for the Steelers after that.
The Steelers picked up a much-needed first win of the season thrashing the Cincinnati Bengals 27-3 in Week Four. They unveiled the Wildcat formation with Jaylen Samuels taking direct snaps on a number of occasions. Rudolph completed 24 of 28 passes for 228 yards and no interceptions. Pittsburgh’s defense sacked Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton six times in the first three quarters.
The Steelers fell to 1-4 when they dropped a 26-23 overtime heartbreaker to the Baltimore Ravens the following week. Devlin Hodges saw his first NFL regular season action when he replaced Rudolph in the third quarter.
As serious as Rudolph’s injury was, there was a gallows type humor when the cart that had gone onto the field to get the prone quarterback failed to start. A woozy Rudolph was helped (almost carried) to the sideline, while a group of attendants pushed the malfunctioning cart to the sideline.
Hodges completed seven of nine passes in relief of Rudolph. The Steelers’ fate was sealed when JuJu Smith-Schuster fumbled on the Steelers’ first possession in overtime, setting up Ravens kicker Justin Tucker’s 46-yard field goal.
James Conner rushed for 145 yards on 23 carries versus a very weak Miami defense as the Steelers bombed the Dolphins 27-14 on Monday, October 28. Minkah Fitzpatrick was outstanding against his former team, pilfering two Miami passes as the Steelers bounced back from a 14-0 deficit for their second consecutive win.
Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri’s 43-yard missed field goal with 1:14 remaining, saved the Steelers’ 26-24 win on November 3. With Roethlisberger out for the season and Rudolph having missed part of one game and all of another with a concussion, the Steelers were unbelievably sitting at 4-4.
Fitzpatrick returned a fumble 43 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter as the Steelers held on to defeat the Los Angeles Rams 17-12 on November 10. The free safety’s interception in the final seconds sealed Pittsburgh’s win and put to rest any criticism of general manager Kevin Colbert’s mid-September trade in which he acquired Fitzpatrick in exchange for Pittsburgh’s first round draft pick in 2020.
“Duck” Hodges made his second NFL start on December 1, guiding the Steelers to a 20-13 win over the Cleveland Browns. Rudolph had been benched the week before in Pittsburgh’s 16-10 win at Cincinnati. Hodges rallied the Steelers from an early 10-0 deficit to pull out the win. Cornerback Joe Haden clinched the win with an interception.
Hodges threw four interceptions, but there was plenty of blame to go around in the 17-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday to close out the home portion of the 2019 regular season. A 22-yard punt by Jordan Berry set up the Bills’ first score. Plain and simple, it was a bad Steelers game.
What kind of memories will 2020 provide for the Heinz Field faithful?