Pittsburgh's Loss in Denver Wasn't Fitzgerald Toussaint's Fault
In the wild card round last week, the Steelers were fortunate to have an opposing running back fumble, giving them the ball with enough time to kick a field goal for the win.
On Sunday, with a chance to go to the AFC Championship, the football gods corrected things. With the Steelers in great shape to upset the Broncos in Denver, Fitzgerald Toussaint, starting for the injured DeAngelo Williams who had been starting for the injured Le'Veon Bell, fumbled the ball away in the fourth quarter.
Like the Steelers a week ago, the Broncos then marched down the field for what ended up being the game-winning score.
The play was big, no doubt. Prior to Toussaint carrying the ball, Pittsburgh's win probability in the contest, according to numberFire Live, sat at 69.40%. After the fumble was recovered by Denver, Pittsburgh's odds of winning dropped to a near 50-50 split, at 49.70%.
Today, Toussaint is getting crushed for his costly mistake. But Pittsburgh's loss to Denver can be blamed on much more than that single play.
Let's not forget about what happened to the Steeler defense right after the fumble occurred. After holding the Broncos for most of the game -- perhaps playing a little over their heads, all things considered -- Pittsburgh's defense failed to stop Peyton Manning. Time and time and time again.
The drive that followed Toussaint's mistake consisted of 14 plays for 65 yards. And the biggest play of the game came on that drive.
After a penalty negated a big C.J. Anderson run, the Broncos faced a 3rd-and-12 from their own 33-yard line. At that point in the game -- and, remember, this was after the Toussaint fumble -- Pittsburgh's odds of winning were a fairly strong 62.95%. Manning dropped back to pass, hit Bennie Fowler for a 31-yard completion, and the rest is history.
That play to Fowler completely shifted the game in the Broncos' favor. In fact, Denver's win probability went up 25.63%, giving Manning's team a near 65% chance to win the contest after the play. And that entire final drive after the fumble -- from start to finish -- added 37.90% win odds for Denver.
Was the Toussaint fumble a pivotal moment in Sunday's game? Of course. Did it bury the Steelers?