If it was not for former Clemson standout Ray Ray McCloud, the Pittsburgh Steelers might not be in the NFL Playoffs, which begin Saturday with Super Wild Card Weekend.
McCloud tallied 132 all-purpose yards in the Steelers’ overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday, including a 10-yard catch on fourth-and-eight in the extra quarter to set Pittsburgh up with game-winning field goal.
Now, the Steelers get their mind set for the Kansas City Chiefs, who they will visit Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs are the No. 2 seed in the AFC, and an overwhelming favorite to take down Pittsburgh, the No. 7 seed.
“It’s back to business,” McCloud said to reporters earlier this week. “It was fun and energized to get to the playoffs, but now that we’re in the playoffs we have to be ten toes down. Let’s get to work. We have a ‘there’s a lot more to be done’ attitude.”
When: Sunday at 8:15 p.m. (NBC)
Betting line: Chiefs -12.5, total 46, according to FanDuel Sportsbook
How they got here
The seventh-seeded Steelers (9-7-1): Calm, cool and collected, Ben Roethlisberger connected with McCloud over the middle on fourth down to set the Steelers up with a game-winning field goal to beat the Ravens in overtime.
Chris Boswell made a 36-yard field goal with 1:56 to play in the extra frame, lifting Pittsburgh to a 16-13 victory.
But the Steelers still needed a little more help on the final Sunday of the regular season to get into the playoffs.
First, they needed the Jacksonville Jaguars to beat the Indianapolis Colts, which Trevor Lawrence and the Jags obliged. Then they had to wait for the Las Vegas Raiders to decide they did not want to tie the Los Angeles Chargers in the nightcap.
A tie in the Raiders-Chargers’ game would have sent both the Raiders and Chargers to the playoffs and left the Steelers home. So, Pittsburgh had to sweat it out until Daniel Carlson’s 47-yard field goal as time expired in overtime went through the goal post.
The Steelers won four of their last six games and three of the last four just to make the playoffs. In the last six weeks, they took down the Ravens twice, beat the AFC’s top seed in Tennessee and beat their other rival, the Cleveland Browns.
Baltimore and Cleveland were in the playoff mix as well down the stretch. However, both were eliminated by losses to the Steelers in Weeks 17 and 18.
Clemson Falls to FSU in ACC Title Game
PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- The fifth-seeded Clemson Softball team put the tying run on base in the top of the seventh inning Saturday, but its rally came up short in an 8-6 loss to Florida State in the ACC Championship Game at Vartabedian Field.
Fourth Inning Propels No. 9 Cavaliers Over Clemson
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. - No. 9 Virginia scored seven runs in the fourth inning and four runs in the eighth inning in its 11-6 victory over Clemson in the series opener at Disharoon Park in a game that started on Friday and ended on Saturday.
Lawrence’s Engaging Attitude Impresses his New Head Coach
CLEMSON, S.C. — Thanks to his old head coach being a total mess last year, Trevor Lawrence’s rookie season in the NFL was sort of an afterthought by many in the NFL.
The Steelers’ push to make the playoffs also extended the career of future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger by at least one more game.
“I’m just so happy for Ben,” Boswell said. “We’re sending him to the playoffs. This team deserves it.”
The second-seeded Chiefs (12-5): The Kansas City Chiefs definitely deserve it. Thanks to a resurgence on defense, the Chiefs won nine of their last 10 games to earn the No. 2 seed in the AFC.
One of those nine wins came against the Steelers, as Kansas City humiliated them, 36-10, at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 16.
But the Chiefs just did not embarrass the Steelers, but they have embarrassed a lot of teams, especially at home, where the defense has been extra tough. In their last six home games, they held the Giants, Packers, Cowboys, Broncos, Raiders and Steelers to an average of 10.2 points, and only the Giants (17) and Steelers (10) got into double digits.
By the way, Kansas City can still score, too. Patrick Mahomes is arguably the best quarterback in the league, Travis Kelce is perhaps the best tight end and wide receiver Tyreek Hill is still the most explosive player in the NFL.
Former Clemson players
Ray Ray McCloud: When the Steelers signed him in 2020, McCloud was signed because of his big-play ability in the return game. The former Tiger did not disappoint, as he has become one of the more dangerous return men in the NFL.
But when JuJu Smith-Schuster went down with a shoulder injury in Week 5, McCloud took advantage of his opportunity and became the No. 4 and sometimes No. 3 target for Roethlisberger.
After his 20-yard catch on a third-and-eight play to set up the go-ahead touchdown against the Ravens last Sunday, and then his fourth-down grab to set up the victory, McCloud has become more than just a returner for the Steelers.
“Early in my career, that used to actually bother me that it was just ‘return man, return man,’” McCloud said to the Pittsburgh Tribune earlier this week. “But once I honed in (as a receiver), I just said, ‘Let’s just make plays.’”
As the Steelers’ slot receiver, McCloud finished the 2021 season fifth on the team with a career-high 39 catches for 277 yards. Over the past month, he has statistically become the Steelers’ number No. 2 receiver.
“Ray-Ray is very shifty and quick,” Roethlisberger told reporters. “He finds ways to get open in man coverage. He is really good like that, and they are doubling (Diontae Johnson) and Chase (Claypool) a lot, too.”
Dorian O’Daniel: The former Clemson linebacker played in all 17 games for the Chiefs this season, mostly on special teams. However, he did get the opportunity to play in four games at linebacker. His best game came against the Steelers on Dec. 26, when he recorded four tackles, while playing 31 percent of the defensive snaps.
Cornell Powell: The former Clemson wide receiver is a member of the Chiefs’ practice squad.
Want to join in on the discussion? 100% FREE! Interact with fellow Tiger fans and hear directly from publisher Zach Lentz, deputy editor Brad Senkiw, recruiting analyst Jason Priester and staff writer Will Vandervort on any subject. Click here to become a member of the ALL CLEMSON message board community today!