The Pittsburgh Steelers are in St. Louis looking to secure their second straight victory in order to go up above the .500 mark in the early portion of the season. In doing so, they will be closer to full go on offense with the return of All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, who figures to get plenty of work against the Rams.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers are without three contributors, including starting inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, who has quickly emerged as one of the team’s best defenders over the course of the first two games. Also out are backup nose tackle Daniel McCullers and forming starting cornerback Cortez Allen, who was also down last week with a knee injury.
Two rookies, defensive end L.T. Walton and wide receiver Sammie Coates, will be getting their first helmets, but whether or not either plays remains to be seen. The full inactive list is as follow:
QB Landry Jones
LB Ryan Shazier
NT Daniel McCullers
CB Cortez Allen
DE Caushaud Lyons
TE Jesse James
G Chris Hubbard
For the Rams, the following players are inactive:
RB Chase Reynolds
DE Eugene Sims
QB Sean Mannion
OL Andrew Donnal
WR Brian Quick
G Cody Wichmann
RB Isaiah Pead
Notice this is a list that does not include the name Todd Gurley. The rookie first-round running back is set to make his debut against the Steelers.
The Rams stadium crew somehow managed to set the turf field on fire during the pre-game pyrotechnic-enhanced player introductions. The Steelers won the coin toss and chose to accept the ball.
Following a touchback, the Steelers put both Bell and DeAngelo Williams on the field together, but spread everyone out, throwing a screen to Bell for 10 yards. Going five wide again on the following play, Ben Roethlisberger connected with Antonio Brown for a seven-yard gain. A quick slant to Markus Wheaton moved the chains and got the Steelers near midfield.
Williams got the first carry of the game, gaining two yards across the 50-yard line. On second and eight, spread wide again, another quick slant to Brown set up a third and two. Out of the 11, a pitch and catch to Brown for his third reception of the drive moved the chains.
On his first carry of the day, Bell skipped ahead for about three yards to approach field goal range. Picking up two yards on second down, the Steelers set up for a third and five from the 30-yard line. Going four wide, Roethlisberger found Bell for about a 20-yard pickup to set up first and goal at the 10.
After pulling it down, Roethlisberger fired to Heath Miller short of the goal line for a pickup of about eight yards. On second and goal from the two, from an empty backfield, the Steelers tried to run a screen for Bell, but the pass was tipped and fell incomplete for the first time of the day. On third and goal, now with Bell in the backfield, the back was tripped up in the backfield for a short loss, with Michael Brockers getting penetration to make the tackle. Josh Scobee‘s field goal gave the Steelers a 3-0 lead.
Scobee’s first kickoff of the day was fielded for a touchback. Sean Spence started in place of Shazier at the mack linebacker spot, as expected. From the 20, Tre Mason was able to pick up about seven yards on first down. Nick Foles held on to the ball for far too long on second down, allowing Stephon Tuitt to close for his 2.5nd sack of the day. On third and five, however, he beat a double DB blitz on the left side to hit Mason for 15 yards.
On the following play, Mason was only able to find space for a yard along the right side. Lance Kendricks picked up about six yards on second down. Foles’ pass was off his receivers’ hands on third down. Brown was back to field the punt, which he fair caught at the seven.
Bell got the carry on first down to pick up 20 yards. On the following play, a quick out to Darrius Heyward-Bey was good for six. Roethlisberger found Brown in stride across midfield. From the 43 after the 19-yard gain, he hit Brown again for a first down as he went over five catches for 50 yards in the first quarter. Bell lowered his shoulder to pick up about two yards on the following play. One again, Bell had to fight for little to gain as they set up for a third and seven. Roethlisberger found Brown for the conversion.
From the 15, Roethlisberger eventually found Bell for a nine-yard gain. Five wide, he fired before Miller was ready for the ball on second down. On third and one, Bell picked up the necessary yardage to set up first and goal at the four-yard line. The Rams sniffed out a screen on first and goal to knock Brown back for a loss of a few yards. From the eight, Miller could not bring in the pass, but this time the throw drew a pass interference.
Now from the one, Bell found his way into the end zone for his first score of the year, giving the Steelers their ninth offensive touchdown of the season. As is their wont, the Steelers went for two after the touchdown, but for the first time in four tries, did not convert, so they take a 9-0 lead.
Scobee boomed another kickoff for a touchback to start the Rams’ second offensive drive. Todd Gurley got his first touch of his career for a two-yard gain, tackled by Lawrence Timmons. On second and eight, Tavon Austin picked up about 12 yards on a screen pass. William Gay upturned Gurley at the line for a short gain. On second down, Foles just got a screen pass out to Austin, who made a couple of tacklers miss for a first down.
Tuitt tripped up Gurley behind the line of scrimmage on the following play. Will Allen made the tackle on Gurley on a pass to the flat to set up third and six. Allen made an excellent read to hit the receiver on the reception well short of the first down. Johnny Hekker, the punter, attempted to throw a pass that he hung up just short, bouncing on the turf to register a turnover on downs. Not something you want to do facing a potent offense to give them a short field.
From his own 48, Roethlisberger found Miller for a first down, but Kelvin Beachum was flagged for illegal hands to the face, which he was also flagged for in the season opener. On first and 20 now from the 38, Bell took the handoff on a draw, but could find no running room. Roethlisberger fired down the field, but it was intercepted by Janoris Jenkins at the 19, without a return.
Mason was stopped for a loss on first down, but Foles connected with Kenny Britt for a first down. On the next play, Mason picked up six yards off the right side. Austin slipped under a tackle attempt by Jarvis Jones for the first down.
Foles found Britt on a vertical route for 19 yards to the 37. Jones made the tackle on Mason at the 34. Down to the 30 on the next rush, the Rams set up for a third and three. Foles’ slant pass was off of Britt, popped into the air with Ross Cockrell defending, with Gay nearly intercepting. The Rams got on the board with a field goal as the Steelers look to put up some more points with 2:05 to play in the half and three timeouts.
Jordan Todman was back to receive the kickoff, which he returned to about the 18-yard line from inside the end zone. Beachum was flagged for a hold on first down, his fifth penalty of the season. Now from the nine on first and 19, Bell picked up about four yards up the middle as the clock ran. Roethlisberger found Brown for a third and two, which was completed to Brown. The Steelers used their first timeout with 54 seconds remaining after assuring that they would not be immediately punting.
Beachum allowed a sack on the following play, setting up a second and 19, with Pittsburgh content to end the half with a short pass, a disappointing finish to a half that began much more promising.