By Matthew Marczi
After jumping out to a 14-0 start, the Pittsburgh Steelers finished the rest of the half losing 27-6 to the Detroit Lions. Matthew Stafford’s balls were sailing early, but after they starting hitting, Detroit’s offense was hard to stop. The Steelers are looking to rebound in the second half, starting with the ball and down a touchdown.
Le’Veon Bell took a pitch three yards for the first play of the half, but he was dropped for a loss of one on second down to set up third and eight. Ben Roethlisberger found Jerricho Cotchery in traffic for the first down. The Lions challenged the ruling of a catch, and the play was overturned, forcing a three-and-out.
Mat McBriar’s first half punts were awful, but he boomed a long one to flip the field, with the Lions starting at their own 12. After a two-yard run and an incomplete pass, the Lions faced an early third and eight. Cameron Heyward batted down the pass to force the three-and-out.
Roethlisberger rushed a pass on first down under pressure, but the Lions were flagged for roughing the passer. Detroit dropped a sure interception in front of Antonio Brown on the next play. Another errant throw on second down put the offense in a bad spot. The incompletion to Miller did give McBriar another chance for a good punt, pinning the Lions at the 12 again.
Stafford came out throwing on first down this time, but the intended receiver dropped the ball. On second down, Reggie Bush tripped forward for a gain of one. Going five wide, the Steelers finally got to Stafford, with Jason Worilds nearly bringing him down for a safety.
The Steelers started the drive at Detroit’s 45, and Jerricho Cotchery came down with a nine-yard gain on first down. Bell worked his way around the perimeter on a pitch for the first down. Roethlisberger found Brown for a 21-yard gain down to the 13. Roethlisberger scrambled for six on first down, but Bell’s reception could only get back to the line of scrimmage.
He took a pass down to the one for the Steelers’ first third-down conversion in their last eight tries, however, to set up first and goal at the one. With Mike Adams in, Bell had nowhere to go on first down. Roethlisberger overthrew a wide open David Paulson on second down. Bell slipped on third down as the Steelers failed to score from within the one, settling for a field goal to make it 27-23.
On their ensuing drive, the Lions were met with very little resistance marching down the field, this despite the stadium playing “Renegade”. They faced third and three to begin the fourth quarter, but Stafford kept the ball and ran for the first down. The Steelers finally were able to come up with a stop, with Ryan Clark helping to double team Calvin Johnson in the end zone. The Lions ran a fake, but the Steelers stripped the ball from the punter to regain possession, albeit deep in their own territory.
The Steelers were looking like they were about to give it right back, but Brown came up with the big catch on third down to get out to the 20. Heath Miller was good for nine yards a play later. On second and one, Bell gained about six up the middle.
With the new set of downs, Roethlisberger scrambled away from pressure and found Miller down the field. That was followed up with a delayed handoff for Bell that lost two yards. Roethlisberger’s subsequent pass was underthrown and likely should have been intercepted. Now facing third and 12 from the Lions’ 46, Roethlisberger rolled to his right and ran up the right sideline to try to get the first down, but was short by nearly two yards. Mike Tomlin elected to go for it, with a reception to Bell converting the fourth down.
Jonathan Dwyer was good for 11 on a reception a play later to get down to the 20. Roethlisberger’s pass was behind Brown on a slant on the ensuing first down. Cotchery escaped a tackle on the next play and nearly got into the end zone, coming up a yard short.
From the one, Brown dropped a floater fading to the right edge of the end zone. Cotchery was -held on second down to give the Steelers another first down at the one, though. Once again on first and goal, the Steelers gave it to Dwyer, their new short-yardage back, who came close to the goal line, but still just short. Will Johnson ran Brown’s route this time, fading to the right of the end zone, and unlike Brown, he held on to the ball for the touchdown to five Pittsburgh a three-point lead. Remember, that drive began at the three after a fake field goal try.
Stafford’s first pass on the subsequent drive fell incomplete when the receiver could not hold on. His receiver dropped his second pass after scrambling to his right to evade pressure. On third and 10, Stafford threw up a prayer that was intercepted by Will Allen and returned deep into Lions territory.
Miller was good for four on first down, and Bell broke a tackle on second down for a new set. They kept it on the ground to grind out some of the clock on first down, but went back to the air on second down on a four-yard reception to Miller, who was knocked out of bounds. On third down, Roethlisberger floated a ball up to Cotchery, who was left wide open for the touchdown to give the Steelers a two-possession lead.
With the Lions now pressing, the Steelers brought the pressure, forcing an incompletion. On third and 10, Stafford threw up a deep pass, but the receiver could not stick with it. William Gay helped influence the incompletion. Stafford did manage to scramble for the first on fourth down.
After a false start, Stafford’s pass near the sideline pulled his receiver out of bounds. His third down pass was defended by Cortez Allen. On fourth and 15, Ziggy Hood dragged Stafford down as he tried to scramble to his right once again, ending the game with a finale of 37-27. The win gives the Steelers a two-game winning streak and an overall record of 4-6, though the Cincinnati Bengals kept pace with their victory over the Cleveland Browns.