Now most of you who read this site know me as quite the “Patty Pessimist.” And hey, that’s fine since I’m a glass half-empty kind of guy.
So while I could discuss the Steelers’ red zone woes (1/4 on touchdowns) and complete and total disaster of a second quarter today (27 points allowed), I will choose to focus more on the team’s stellar effort in other areas which propelled them to a 37-27 win over the Detroit Lions this afternoon.
As much as Pittsburgh’s running game struggled (27 carries for 40 yards) against Detroit’s front-seven, the Steelers started off hot with “Big Ben” running the hurry-up and no-huddle offense and finding Antonio Brown early and often. Brown, who caught seven passes for 147 yards, caught two first quarter touchdowns to put the Steelers ahead 14-0 and firmly in the driver’s seat.
The passing game was clicking, and Roethlisberger looked in sync with all of his pass catchers. Heck, even the defense kept the Lions at bay and even got off the field on a crucial 4th down, and Lawrence Timmons scooped up a fumble in Pittsburgh’s territory later in the half.
Of course, all of the good vibes would go by the wayside though by the middle of the quarter though, Detroit’s offense shied away from the run, and relied on Calvin Johnson and the rest of their receiving corps to thrash Pittsburgh’s secondary. The Lions racked up all 27 points in the second quarter alone, Stafford threw two touchdowns to Johnson (79 and 19 yards), and the running game (25 carries, 107 yards, Reggie Bush touchdown) finally appeared to click due to the pass taking precedent.
Although their offense could only muster a field goal in that quarter, Pittsburgh’s defense held firm on Detroit’s final possession of the half. Instead of allowing the Lions to take a commanding 31-20 lead, the defense stood firm inside the five-yard line and forced three straight incomplete passes from Stafford to make the game 27-20.
After Pittsburgh’s offense went three-and-out to start the second half, the defense came up big once again in the third quarter to force two three-and-outs and the Steelers mustered a field goal which cut the lead to 27-23. On Detroit’s next possession though, the Steelers’ defense stepped up to make what could be considered “the play of the season.”
With the ball on Pittsburgh’s 10 yard-line, Detroit appeared to line up for a cake-easy field goal which would have given them 30-23 lead with 12:49 to go. Detroit’s head coach however thought it was time for some razzle-dazzle and called a fake field goal. Unfortunately for Jim Schwartz, his gamble did not pay off as his punter Sam Martin was stripped of the ball by Steve McLendon and Cameron Heyward. Ryan Clark recovered the ball at the three yard-line, and Pittsburgh had dodged an enormous bullet.
Needing a big drive, “Big Ben” came through. He found Brown for 16 yards on 3rd and 9 to get out of the shadow of his own end zone, scrambled for 10 yards on 3rd and 12 to make the 4th down play more manageable near midfield, found Le’Veon Bell in the flat to convert on the next play, and finished the masterful drive with a one yard touchdown pass to Will Johnson in the corner of the end zone to put his team ahead 30-27.
Not to be outdone, the defense came up with one final turnover on the following drive when Will Allen picked off a desperation heave by Stafford at Pittsburgh’s 39 and returned it 27 yards to Detroit’s 34. Then on 3rd and 6 from the 20, Todd Haley and “Big Ben” went for broke and the win instead of a measly six-point lead with just over 2:30 to play.
After a pump fake, Detroit’s defense bit hard and Roethlisberger found a wide-open Jerricho Cotchery for a touchdown!
Up 37-27 with just over 2:00 to play, Pittsburgh was in control and had the game sealed.
As many issues as there were, I can’t say enough about the defense for posting a shutout in the second half, limiting Johnson to zero catches during that span, and “Big Ben” for his late-game heroics. In addition, it was also nice to see Markus Wheaton making some contributions (three catches for 38 yards), Will Allen, Jason Worilds, and Cameron Heyward continuing to step up, and Mat McBriar even connecting on a booming 70 yard punt.
While the Steelers were far from perfect, it was nothing short of fantastic to see how they responded after their disastrous 27-point quarter. They played solid and inspired football as they found a way to win today, and I for one tip my cap to those who were involved in the victory.
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