Like just about everyone else in the sports world, the Pittsburgh Steelers were glued to their television sets on Sunday night.
The Steelers entered the day needing to beat the Baltimore Ravens as underdogs, needing the Jacksonville Jaguars to beat the Indianapolis Colts as three-score underdogs, and needing to avoid a tie in the Los Angeles Chargers-Las Vegas Raiders game.
Who would have thought the last part would have been the toughest? The Jaguars routed the Colts, the Steelers squeaked past the Ravens in overtime, and then flew home to Pittsburgh to watch their fate unfold on television. The Steelers needed a team to win the game, but the Chargers and Raiders could both go to the postseason with a tie.
The Raiders were up 12 points late, making a tie very unlikely, but then added a field goal.
“Me and a few teammates actually watched it together,” Steelers wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud said. “After the Raiders were up for a while, we were kind of like, ‘OK, we’re going to be straight.’”
Then Justin Herbert and the Chargers scored a touchdown, went for two, and got it, and scored on the game’s final play to send things into overtime.
The Raiders started overtime with a field goal. The Chargers matched it on the following drive. Vegas had the ball once more, but time was running down and it looked like the teams may settle for a tie.
“My little brother called me, he was like, ‘It’s rigged, bro. It’s rigged.,’” McCloud said of the uncanny way the game found its way back to level over and over again.
Finally, Daniel Carlson kicked his fifth field goal of the game with no time left on the clock in overtime to give the Raiders the victory and put Pittsburgh in the postseason.
“It went into overtime and to the last play of the game, and we were sitting there, it was almost like we were playing,” McCloud said. “That’s what it felt like, like we were actually playing the game.”
The game was the first time in NFL history that the final playoff participants weren’t known until the final game of the regular season, and that game went to overtime. And it’s certainly the first time one of those teams was rooting for either team to win the game.
“It was a relief,” said cornerback Cam Sutton. “It was a fun game, definitely an exciting game. … All in all, it was a great game in the ending of it.”