With last year’s 34-31 loss at Oakland seared into their memory, the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the Raiders again Sunday.
Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 43-yard field goal as time ran out to give the Raiders the win in Week 3 last season.
The 6’1”, 258-pound Janikowski has a leg like a sequoia and has kicked field goals of 63 and 61 yards in his career.
This season, however, the Steelers have the edge over Raiders in terms of kicking accuracy.
Shaun Suisham has made all 14 of his field-goal attempts. Janikowski is just 7-for-11.
Suisham has made 42 of his last 45 field-goal attempts going back to the beginning of last season. His 42-yarder lifted the Steelers to a 19-16 victory over the Baltimore Ravens last week at Pittsburgh.
Suisham’s debut with the Steelers came against Janikowski and the Raiders in Week 11 of the 2010 season. The Steelers didn’t need Suisham to kick any field goals at Heinz Field that day in their 35-3 win.
Since then, however, he’s kicked five game-winning field goals for the Steelers as time expired. You could call them walk-off field goals. He also kicked a 38-yard field goal with four seconds left to beat the Indianapolis Colts 23-20 in Week 3 of the 2011 season, but that doesn’t count as a walk-off because there was still enough time on the clock for the Steelers to kick off and the Colts to run a play.
Let’s rank Suisham’s five game-ending field goals as a Steeler.
No. 5: Steelers 16, Chiefs 13, OT (Nov. 12, 2012)
Suisham’s walk-off in this game came less than a minute into overtime as the Steelers improved to 6-3 with their fourth consecutive win. However, Ben Roethlisberger went down with rib and shoulder injuries and would be out for the next three games.
This 23-yarder is the shortest of Suisham’s game-winners with the Steelers.
The Chiefs put a scare into the Steelers by taking a 10-0 lead in the first half, but this was a 1-8 team that the Steelers beat. No one knew at the time how long Roethlisberger would be out, but he left the stadium to go to the hospital, so it was apparent he would miss some games. That made this a hollow victory.
No. 4: Steelers 19, Ravens 16 (Oct. 20, 2013)
Suisham’s 42-yarder into the open end of Heinz Field gave the Steelers a win they desperately needed. After an 0-4 start, they desperately need to win every game this season.
This one might be ranked rather low considering it beat the hated Ravens. It could be a stepping stone to a miraculous turnaround this season. But as dramatic as this victory was, it lacked certain elements of games ranked ahead of it.
No. 3: Steelers 19, Bills 16, OT (Nov. 28, 2010)
Suisham’s field-goal services weren’t needed in his first game as a Steeler, but they sure were needed at Buffalo in his second one.
Suisham made all four of his field-goal attempts in this game, all from more than 40 yards. But this isn’t a ranking of his overall performance. The game-winner alone merits the No. 3 ranking, because when Suisham’s 41-yarder went through the uprights in overtime, the Steelers essentially stole a win.
The Steelers blew a 13-0, third-quarter lead. They should have lost this game in OT when Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a 40-yard pass that Stevie Johnson dropped in the end zone. The Bills also shot themselves in the foot at the beginning of that drive.
Daniel Sepulveda punted from the Steelers’ 1-yard line, which pretty much guaranteed favorable field position for the Bills. Leodis McKelvin returned it five yards to the Bills’ 49, then fumbled the ball 15 yards backwards. The Bills recovered, but maybe Johnson doesn’t drop that pass if it’s from 25 yards rather than 40.
The Bills still reached the Steelers’ 36 and the fringe of field-goal range three plays after Johnson’s drop, but James Farrior sacked Fitzpatrick for a 3-yard loss, and the Bills had to punt. That set up the game-winning drive.
Suisham’s game-winning field goal came with 2:19 left in overtime. He faced the pressure of avoiding not only a loss but also a tie, which is never satisfying after playing nearly five quarters of football.
Unlike last week, the Steelers didn’t need this victory to keep their playoff hopes alive. These were the days when anything short of first place in the AFC North was calamity, and this win allowed the Steelers to remain tied with the Ravens atop the division with an 8-3 record. They won at Baltimore the following week, giving them the inside track on the first-round bye that they used to reach Super Bowl XLV.
No. 2: Steelers 16, Eagles 14 (Oct. 7, 2012)
This one ranks second on the list because of the added pressure of a one-point deficit. This is the only one on the list that was going to end the game one way or the other. If Suisham made it, the Steelers would win. If he missed it, they’d lose.
This win at Heinz Field was not unlike the Steelers’ win at Heinz over the Ravens this season, except for the fact that the Steelers lost the lead at one point.
The Steelers led 10-0 in the first half and 13-7 in the fourth quarter when Brent Celek caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick with 6:33 left.
Suisham’s 34-yarder into the open end of Heinz Field improved the Steelers to 2-2. Even as recently as last year, a 1-3 start would have been unheard of in Pittsburgh.
This season, a 1-3 start would have been nice.
No. 1: Steelers 23, Ravens 20 (Dec. 2, 2012)
Was there any doubt this would be No. 1?
Suisham’s 42-yarder unleashed a wave of emotions.
Charlie Batch led the Steelers to this victory with Ben Roethlisberger sidelined, and the two shared a long embrace after Suisham’s kick sailed through the uprights. Roethlisberger was coming back the following week, and it was apparent that this would be Batch’s swan song with the Steelers.
Having already lost two in a row, the Steelers overcame deficits of 13-3 in the first half and 20-13 midway through the fourth quarter.
This victory at Baltimore snapped the Steelers’ three-game losing streak against the Ravens, improved their record to 7-5 and buoyed their playoff hopes.
Sure, it was the last meaningful game the Steelers won in 2012. But this is Suisham’s top walk-off field goal for a number of reasons.
Coming in Week 13, it’s the only one in which the Steelers were really fighting for their playoff lives late in the season. It’s the only one that has ended a multiple-game losing streak, and this was a legitimate upset. The Ravens entered the game 9-2 and were facing the Steelers’ backup quarterback.
Top that, Janikowski.
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