Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger's Top 10 Fourth-Quarter Comebacks

Mike Batista@Steel_TweetsContributor INovember 22, 2013

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger's Top 10 Fourth-Quarter Comebacks

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    Where does Ben Roethlisberger's late-game heroics against the Lions rank among his career fourth-quarter comebacks?
    Where does Ben Roethlisberger's late-game heroics against the Lions rank among his career fourth-quarter comebacks?Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

    Ben Roethlisberger engineered the 23rd fourth-quarter comeback victory of his career Sunday as the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Detroit Lions 37-27 at Heinz Field.

    He needs one more fourth-quarter comeback to tie Eli Manning, Dave Krieg, Dan Fouts and Drew Bledsoe for 11th all-time.

    Does Sunday's fourth-quarter rally rank among the top 10 in Roethlisberger's career?

    These comebacks are ranked in terms of significance, the size of the deficit and other circumstances that might have made the situation more difficult.

    So this is one of those countdowns in which No. 1 is obvious. But even though we know what's at the end, it will be fun getting there.

    Pro Football Reference is used as the source for statistics and play-by-play information, unless otherwise noted.

Honorable Mentions

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    Steelers 24, Chargers 22 (2005, Week 5)

    LaDainian Tomlinson's touchdown gave the Chargers a 22-21 lead with less than five minutes to go at San Diego.

    Despite suffering a knee injury, Ben Roethlisberger put the Steelers in position for Jeff Reed's 40-yard field goal with six seconds left.

    The Steelers improved to 3-1 and took another small step toward winning Super Bowl XL.

    Steelers 20. Ravens 19 (2005, Week 8)

    Roethlisberger completed a 14-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El and a 23-yard pass to Quincy Morgan, sparking a 60-yard drive that led to Jeff Reed's 37-yard field goal with 1:40 left. The Steelers improved to 5-2 with this Monday night home win on Halloween.

    Steelers 26, Jaguars 21 (2008, Week 5)

    The Steelers trailed the Jaguars 21-20 with less than five minutes left at Jacksonville. On 3rd-and-8 from the Jaguars' 31-yard line, Roethlisberger had a defender yanking his jersey but kept the play and the drive alive with an 18-yard pass to Hines Ward.

    An eight-yard touchdown pass to Ward with 1:59 left provided the winning points. The Steelers avenged their 2007 playoff loss to the Jaguars and ended Jacksonville's three-game winning streak against them.

    Pittsburgh improved to 4-1 and made a statement in what turned out to be a championship season.

    Steelers 11, Chargers 10 (2008, Week 11)

    Once again, the Steelers beat the Chargers on a field goal in the final seconds on their way to a championship season.

    This time, it was in Pittsburgh.

    Down 10-8 with 6:31 left, the Steelers started at their own 13-yard line. Roethlisberger completed all six passes he threw on the drive for 62 yards. The last one was a 13-yarder to Santonio Holmes at the Chargers' 21. From there, it was all Willie Parker, as the Steelers ran the clock down to 15 seconds for Jeff Reed's 32-yard field goal.

    The Steelers improved to 7-3 with this win.

No. 10: Steelers 20, Jets 17, OT (2004, AFC Divisional Playoffs)

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    This game wasn't one of Ben Roethlisberger's better performances. After leading the Steelers to a 15-1 regular season, the rookie started to look like a rookie in the postseason.

    This fourth-quarter comeback in Pittsburgh makes the countdown, however, because it came in a playoff game.

    The Jets took a 17-10 lead in the third quarter on Reggie Tongue's 86-yard interception return, one of two picks Roethlisberger threw.

    Roethlisberger led the Steelers on a 12-play, 66-yard drive to tie the game in the fourth quarter. He passed for two third-down conversions along the way, and tossed a four-yard shovel pass to Hines Ward for a TD to make it 17-17 with 6:04 to go.

    Jets kicker Doug Brien had two chances to send the Jets to New England for the following week's AFC Championship Game, but he missed two field goals in the last 2:02 of regulation.

    In overtime, Roethlisberger moved the Steelers 72 yards in 13 plays. He threw a 17-yard pass to Ward on 3rd-and-6 to get the Steelers to midfield. The drive set up Jeff Reed's game-winning, 33-yard field goal.

    Roethlisberger became just the second rookie quarterback to lead his team to a conference championship game, even though the Steelers lost 41-27 to the Patriots the following week.

No. 9: Steelers 24, Cowboys 20 (2004, Week 6)

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    Ben Roethlisberger accomplished the same thing with this fourth-quarter comeback that Bruce Springsteen did with his Born to Run album.

    He made a name for himself.

    Roethlisberger, a fresh-faced rookie, entered this game with three straight wins after taking over for an injured Tommy Maddox.

    This victory over the Bill Parcells-coached Cowboys at Dallas provided the first hint of what would come that season and over the next decade.

    The Steelers were down 20-10 going into the fourth quarter. Roethlisberger threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Jerame Tuman to make it 20-17 with just under 12 minutes left.

    Roethlisberger had some help from his defense in this comeback. The Cowboys had a chance to run out the clock and forced the Steelers to use their last timeout with 2:36 left. Then on 3rd-and-13 from the Steelers' 47, James Farrior sacked Vinny Testaverde and forced a fumble, which Kimo von Oelhoffen returned to the Dallas 24-yard line.

    The reason this fourth-quarter comeback isn't ranked higher is because the defense put the Steelers in field-goal range.

    Roethlisberger didn't settle for a field-goal, however. He completed an 11-yard pass to Plaxico Burress and a six-yard throw to Tuman. Jerome Bettis eventually scored the winning touchdown on a 2-yard run with 34 seconds left.

    The Steelers improved to 5-1, then won 10 more games after that to finish the regular season 15-1 and reach the AFC Championship Game.

    It wouldn't be the last time Roethlisberger broke the Cowboys' hearts.

No. 8: Steelers 24, Browns 20 (2006, Week 11)

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    Just like he did in his most recent fourth-quarter comeback, Ben Roethlisberger improved the Steelers to 4-6 with this victory and kept their flickering playoff hopes alive on a rainy afternoon.

    The Steelers couldn't climb out of the 2-6 hole they dug for themselves and missed the playoffs in 2006.

    History has ignored this comeback against Cleveland because of how disappointing the 2006 season turned out to be. There aren't many fond memories of that campaign, so it's easy to forget that Roethlisberger packed almost an entire game's worth of productivity into the fourth quarter of this win. He completed 18 of 29 passes in the final 15 minutes and threw for 224 of his 272 yards to help the Steelers overcome a 10-point deficit with less than five minutes to play.

    The Steelers pulled to within 13-10 on Roethlisberger's 20-yard pass to Santonio Holmes with 9:44 left in the game. But Joshua Cribbs took the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown to restore the Browns' 10-point lead.

    Then Roethlisberger went to work. Fighting the clock, he got the Steelers to the Browns' 20-yard line with 4:38 left. On third-and-11, he threw a screen pass to Willie Parker that turned into a 16-yard gain.

    Two plays later, Roethlisberger threw a one-yard touchdown pass to Parker to complete a 17-play, 79-yard drive and make it 20-17.

    After forcing a three-and-out, the Steelers took over at their 23 with 3:06 left. A 21-yard pass to Hines Ward got the Steelers into Browns territory. That was followed by a 15-yard pass to Holmes that put the Steelers in field-goal range at the 28-yard line.

    Instead of settling for overtime, Roethlisberger eventually found Parker again, this time on a four-yard shovel pass that gave the Steelers a 24-20 lead with 32 seconds left.

    The Browns advanced into Steelers territory on their final possession, but the Steelers stopped them 22 yards from the end zone, sparing themselves the indignity of losing in Cleveland.

No. 7: Steelers 31, Browns 28 (2007, Week 10)

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    The Steelers had to come from behind twice in the fourth quarter of this game at Heinz Field.

    This one ranks higher than the Steelers' 2006 win at Cleveland because it came against a better Browns team. It's also more memorable because it came during a playoff season.

    It didn't come down to the final minute like that game did, but there were some wild momentum swings in the final 15 minutes.

    The 5-3 Browns could have tied the 6-2 Steelers atop the AFC North with a win in this game, and they led 21-6 in the second quarter.

    They still clung to a 21-16 edge in the fourth quarter when on 3rd-and-10 Roethlisberger ran 30 yards for a touchdown with 11:43 left. The two-point conversion gave the Steelers a 24-21 lead.

    It didn't last long, though. Josh Cribbs continued to haunt the Steelers by returning the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-24, Browns.

    On the 12th play of the Steelers' game-winning drive, Roethlisberger again converted a third down on his own. This time it was a 10-yard scramble on 3rd-and-9 from the Browns' 12. Two plays later, Roethlisberger threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller to complete the 78-yard march and put the Steelers ahead 31-28 with just over three minutes left.

    The Steelers forced a three-and-out, but the Browns got the ball back one more time at their own 33-yard line with 1:04 left and no timeouts. They moved close enough for Phil Dawson to attempt a 52-yard field goal, but it was no good.

    The Steelers and Browns both finished 10-6 in 2007. However, the Steelers won the AFC North with that record, and the Browns missed the playoffs.

No. 6: Steelers 13, Ravens 10 (2010, Week 13)

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    Ben Roethlisberger had to drive only nine yards for the winning touchdown in this game at Baltimore.

    Troy Polamalu's iconic strip-sack of Joe Flacco and LaMarr Woodley's 19-yard return gave the Steelers the ball at the Ravens' 9-yard line with 3:22 left.

    The Steelers didn't have far to go. But down 10-6, they needed a touchdown, and that was no sure thing after two incomplete passes.

    Roethlisberger was playing on a broken foot, and he broke his nose during the game, according to SI.com. But on 3rd-and-goal, he hit running back Isaac Redman on a checkdown, and Redman ran the remaining seven yards, breaking several tackles along the way, for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:58 left.

    Rather than trying a 48-yard field goal, the Ravens failed to convert a 4th-and-2 with 37 seconds left.

    This victory improved the Steelers to 9-3. It was instrumental in winning the AFC North and earning a first-round playoff bye. The Steelers won their two home playoff games, including a divisional-round rematch against the Ravens, and reached Super Bowl XLV.

No. 5: Steelers 37, Lions 27 (2013, Week 11)

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    Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

    Not only does Ben Roethlisberger's latest fourth-quarter comeback make the top 10, it makes the top five.

    While this one doesn't have the far-reaching implications of the Steelers' win at Baltimore in 2010 (not yet, anyway), it ranks ahead of that one because it will be remembered for a 16-play, 97-yard touchdown drive as opposed to a three-play, nine-yard touchdown drive.

    The visiting Lions fumbled a fake field-goal attempt at their own 3-yard line with 12:49 left in the game.

    Down 27-23, the Steelers needed a touchdown. On 3rd-and-9, Roethlisberger completed a 16-yard pass to Antonio Brown to move the ball out of the shadow of his own goalposts.

    On 3rd-and-12 from the Lions' 46, Roethlisberger ran it himself for 10 yards, then threw to Le'Veon Bell for three yards to convert a 4th-and-2.

    A 19-yard pass to Jerricho Cotchery got the Steelers to the 1-yard line, and Roethlisberger finished the drive with a touchdown pass to little-used fullback Will Johnson on a fade route, giving the Steelers a 30-27 lead with 4:46 left.

    This is Roethlisberger's only fourth-quarter comeback in which he put the game away with another touchdown. Will Allen's interception set up a 20-yard TD pass to Cotchery and a 10-point Steelers lead.

    Roethlisberger threw for 367 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in the game. He saved the Steelers from what would have been an infamous defeat. They allowed a franchise-record 379 yards in the first half and blew a 17-3 lead by allowing 27 points in the second quarter.

    But Roethlisberger's 23rd career fourth-quarter comeback improved their record to 4-6 and brought them to the precipice of playoff contention after an 0-4 start.

No. 4: Steelers 13, Ravens 9 (2008, Week 15)

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    This was a typical Steelers-Ravens defensive scrum.

    Touchdowns were hard to come by. Only field goals were scored as the Steelers trailed 9-3 after three quarters in Baltimore.

    Jeff Reed kicked a 30-yard field goal to narrow the deficit to 9-6 with 9:29 left in the game.

    The Ravens punted on their next possession, giving the Steelers the ball at their own 8-yard line with 3:36 left. A 16-yard pass to Nate Washington on 3rd-and-10 got the Steelers to midfield.

    The Steelers moved into field-goal range when Roethlisberger threw to Washington for 24 yards to reach the Ravens' 14.

    Then with 50 seconds left, on 3rd-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Roethlisberger darted back and forth behind the line of scrimmage and threw a touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes. The play epitomized how difficult it was to get into the end zone in this game.

    Holmes was barely across the goal line with his back to the goal post before he was tackled and pushed out of the end zone. Replay confirmed that the ball broke the plane, and the Steelers went on to clinch the AFC North with this win.

    The Steelers' fifth straight victory improved their record to 11-3. This fourth-quarter comeback ranks ahead of the one at Baltimore in 2010 because of the 92 yards the Steelers had to cover for the winning points. Also, unlike 2010, it led to a Super Bowl the Steelers won.

No. 3: Steelers 20, Cowboys 13 (2008, Week 14)

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    This fourth-quarter rally came the week before the Steelers' comeback win at Baltimore. Kicking a field goal wasn't an option in this case, which is why this fourth-quarter comeback ranks ahead of the one in Baltimore.

    Ben Roethlisberger didn't put the Steelers in front in this game at Heinz Field, but he brought them back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter on a day when the Steelers produced just 238 yards of offense.

    Santonio Holmes sparked the rally with a 35-yard punt return to the Cowboys' 25. That set up Jeff Reed's 41-yard field goal with 7:20 left in the game, pulling the Steelers to within 13-6.

    The Steelers forced a three-and-out and got the ball back at their own 33 with 5:10 left, hoping to tie the game.

    The drive started out promising with Roethlisberger completing passes of 14 and 21 yards to Nate Washington. Then he faced 3rd-and-10 after two incompletions and covered all 10 of those yards himself. He ran for nine yards on third down and one yard on fourth down to keep the chains moving.

    Washington caught a 16-yard pass before Roethlisberger threw the game-tying touchdown to Heath Miller from six yards out with 2:10 left.

    The winning points came when Deshea Townsend intercepted a Tony Romo pass and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown with 1:51 left.

    Even though this fourth-quarter comeback didn't include a game-winning drive, it's among Roethlisberger's top three because the Steelers were in danger of squandering the momentum from their huge road win over New England the week before.

    Instead, they carried that momentum to Baltimore.

No. 2: Steelers 37, Packers 36 (2009, Week 15)

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    This game at Heinz Field could become a lost classic because it happened during a forgettable Steelers season.

    Even though it didn't lead to a playoff berth, this is Ben Roethlisberger's No. 2 fourth-quarter comeback because it's the only one where the ball was in his hands on the game's final play with the Steelers needing a touchdown.

    An Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass gave the Green Bay Packers a 36-30 lead with two minutes left.

    The Steelers' final drive wasn't without a few hiccups. They committed two penalties, Roethlisberger was sacked, a Packers interception was negated by a penalty and Pittsburgh faced a 4th-and-7 at its own 22. Roethlisberger's 32-yard pass to Santonio Holmes on that play kept the chains moving. Then on 3rd-and-15 from the Steelers' 44-yard line, Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller for a 20-yard gain.

    Two plays after that, Roethlisberger threw to Miller again for 15 yards to the Packers' 19-yard line with 18 seconds left, and the Steelers used their last timeout.

    With 0:00 on the clock, Mike Wallace reached for Roethlisberger's 19-yard pass and caught it while falling out of bounds. He managed to keep his toes in the field of play, and the touchdown was upheld on review.

    The fourth and final lead change in the game's last eight minutes came when Jeff Reed's extra point made the victory official.

    The Steelers fell short of the postseason with a 9-7 record, but on this afternoon Roethlisberger's game-winning pass ended a five-game losing streak and kept the Steelers' faint playoff hopes alive at 7-7.

No. 1: Super Bowl XLIII (2008)

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    Ben Roethlisberger already had won a championship, but he completed just nine of 21 passes and threw two interceptions in the Steelers' win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.

    He did a lot more to earn this ring.

    This was the biggest stage for any of Roethlisberger's fourth-quarter comebacks, and the Steelers were dealt a setback right away on the game-winning drive when a 10-yard holding penalty moved them back to their own 12-yard line. Down 23-20 to the Arizona Cardinals, the Steelers had two and a half minutes to cover 88 yards.

    Roethlisberger faced one third down on the drive and converted with a 13-yard completion to Santonio Holmes.

    A 40-yard pass to Holmes, most of which came after the catch, put the ball on the Cardinals' 6-yard line. But the Steelers used their last timeout with 48 seconds left.

    In the worst-case scenario, a field goal would have tied the game, but Roethlisberger went for the win.

    After an incomplete pass, Roethlisberger pinpointed a ball over three red jerseys into Holmes' outstretched hands in the back right corner of the end zone. Holmes secured Super Bowl MVP honors with the touchdown reception.

    Roethlisberger's greatest fourth-quarter comeback gave the Steelers an unprecedented sixth Super Bowl title and also their most dramatic Super Bowl finish.