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Top 20 Games of 2015: No. 5 -- Steelers at Seahawks

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Final score: Seahawks 39, Steelers 30

» Full list of the Top 20 Games of 2015

When thinking of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, most fans will gravitate toward one word.

Defense.

The Steelers have long been associated with hard-nosed defensive football, even if their unit struggled at times in 2015 and the offense is among the best in the NFL.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, had gone to back-to-back Super Bowls on the strength of the "Legion of Boom" and a dynamic front seven.

However, when these two teams squared off in Week 8 of 2015, the defenses took a back seat.

What ensued was the best shootout of the year (with timely appearances from the defenses).

See, what makes a truly great shootout isn't simply an offensive explosion. Otherwise the Giants-Saints score-a-palooza (from Week 8) would be on this list. In that game, the Saints were tied or in the lead for just over 51 of the 60 minutes played.

Conversely, there were six separate lead changes between the Steelers and Seahawks, adding to the drama, excitement and intrigue. Heck, there were four lead changes and 29 points scored in the second quarter alone.

What also made this game great were the conflicting offensive styles.

The Steelers were a high-volume aerial assault, attacking the Legion of Boom with everything they had. And I mean EVERYTHING. Would you believe me if I told you Ben Roethlisberger threw 55 times for 456 yards, and Antonio Brown only accounted for six catches and 51 yards? Because that's what happened. And the reason why, is Markus Wheaton.

Wheaton was a forgotten entity last year, as what was supposed to be his breakout campaign was overtaken by Martavis Bryant's explosive rookie year. Well, on this day, it was Wheaton's time to shine.

He hauled in nine crucial catches for 201 receiving yards, none more important than this beautiful 69-yard rainbow from Big Ben, giving the Steelers back the lead over the Seahawks, 27-26.

Oh, right, the Seahawks, the other half of this epic shootout. Well, while Big Ben and co. were spraying and praying like your little brother in Call of Duty, Russell Wilson was calmly and coolly picking apart the Steelers' secondary with precise throws.

His first touchdown to Doug Baldwin was a beaut, as was his rifle to Jermaine Kearse. That tear-drop pass to Jimmy Graham (where he made a spectacular catch)? Another gem.

Seattle made the most of every opportunity, scoring 19 points off of turnovers while eating up clock with the physical running of undrafted sensation Thomas Rawls.

But when Seattle was nursing a 32-30 lead facing a crucial third-and-10, they once again put the ball in Wilson's hands setting up ...

Play of the Game


With 2:14 left on the clock and two timeouts, trailing only by two points, the Steelers had a great shot to get the ball back and win this game. All they had to do was stop the Seahawks on third-and-long. The Steelers, true to form, brought pressure with a six-man rush. They orchestrated a stunt to free up rookie Bud Dupree to scream through the middle of the line at Wilson. Always calm under pressure, Wilson recognized the blitz, and fired a pass to Baldwin. That pass ... was picture perfect. Wilson gunned it far enough to the outside where Antwon Blake had no chance at a pass breakup, and it also allowed Baldwin to quickly turn his hips and move upfield. One nasty stiff-arm later and Baldwin was off to the races, giving the Seahawks some much need cushion with a 39-30 lead.

Butterfly Effect


Jimmy Graham was finally looking like the tight end the Seahawks traded for in this game, before a torn patellar tendon ended his season. Graham's loss, however, opened up the Seattle passing attack in a way no one anticipated. From Week 1 to Week 11, Wilson averaged 237.8 passing yards and 1.3 passing touchdowns per game. From Week 12 on, those numbers jumped to 274.33 passing yards per game, and 3.5 passing touchdowns per game. With Graham out, the passing offense also funneled more through Doug Baldwin, who scored a remarkable 11 touchdowns from Week 12 through Week 16. Long known as a running team, with Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls hurt late in the season, Wilson put the team on his right arm and delivered, proving he's taken his game to new heights. Look out, NFC.

Head Scratcher


Leading 3-0 at the start of the second quarter, the Steelers lined up for a field goal. However, they quickly shifted into an offensive formation, with backup quarterback Landry Jones stepping behind center to run the fake. He took a few steps to the right, looked back to his left and lobbed a pass ... into the hands of the Seahawks' Jeremy Lane, who returned the interception to the Pittsburgh 24. So many questions here ... Why not take the easy points? If you're going for the fake, why so many moving parts for your backup quarterback? Why didn't Jones see Lane? Why are so many players (who run for a living) continuously tripped up by the damn turf!?!

Why This Game is No. 5


Start to finish, this was the finest shootout of the NFL season. It was high-scoring, featured explosive plays, showcased unsung heroes and even had some timely defense (like Kam Chancellor's game-sealing interception). Big Ben and Russell Wilson were fantastic, while Doug Baldwin's third touchdown of the day put the appropriate exclamation point on this ridiculously entertaining piece of football.

Visit NFL Game Center for more highlights and analysis from Steelers at Seahawks, Week 12.

-- by Alex Gelhar. Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar.

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