The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the second half with the lead, but the offense has to feel disappointed after managing just nine points despite moving the ball well through most of the first half. The opening drive stalled at the five-yard line, and the offense struggled late in the half, particularly during the two-minute drive, sabotaged by a penalty and a sack allowed, both on Kelvin Beachum.
On the plus side, the defense has allowed just three points, with Stephon Tuitt registering a sack. The Rams have mustered 112 yards of offense, and the Steelers did not give up an explosive play in the half.
Statistically, Antonio Brown successfully extended his various streaks, finishing the first half with nine reception for 86 yards. He should surpass the club record for most receptions in a three-game span, which I believe he currently co-owns with Hines Ward at 30, if anybody wants to fact-check that. The great Dom Rinelli noted that his nine receptions ties Ward’s club record for the most receptions in a half.
All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell made his debut, scoring a rushing touchdown and ripping off a 20-yard run to pair with a 19-yard reception, totaling 73 yards on 13 touches, 10 for 34 on the ground and three for 39 through the air. Ben Roethlisberger completed 16 of 19 passes for 160 yards, but he also threw his second interception of the season.
Josh Scobee‘s kick was held short of the back of the end zone, and the Steelers coverage made the tackle at the 18. Nick Foles hit Lance Kendricks on the first play for five yards. Todd Gurley picked up about four yards up the right side to set up a third and short. The line penetrated but could not make the stop as Bennie Cunningham cut through the middle for 12 yards.
From the 39, Foles was forced to throw the ball away under pressure with nobody open. On second and 10, Kenny Britt was open for first-down yardage near William Gay and Bud Dupree. Across midfield, Kendricks dropped a ball down the field with James Harrison in coverage on a rollout. Big play. On second down, Arthur Moats ripped Foles down to expand the momentum swing, setting up third and 17. Foles dumped it off to Cunningham, who brought the ball five yards short of the first. Johnny Hekker‘s second punt rolled into the end zone.
On the first play of the half for the offense, a screen to Brown picked up about eight yards, bringing him closer to 100 for the game on his 10th reception. Bell was stuffed for a loss of a couple by Aaron Donald on second down. On third and medium, a pass over the middle to Bell was defended, but the defender was flagged for defensive holding for a first down.
Roethlisberger’s second pass of the half to Brown was incomplete when the receiver could not get his second foot inbounds. Bell was smothered again in the backfield as the Rams defensive line begins to pick up the energy level. On third and 13, Brown managed to break a tackle on a short pass to get first-down yardage as he goes over 100 on his 11th reception.
Darrius Heyward-Bey picked up six yards on a sideline pass on the following play as the Steelers look to reestablish a healthy relationship with the downs schedule. On second and four, Bell took a big hit over the middle, but held on for the four-yard reception to move the chains.
Roethlisberger pulled the ball down and took a sack from Donald for an eight-yard loss, beating Cody Wallace. On second and 18, he went down again and stayed down, grabbing at his leg.
Michael Vick entered the game on third and 23, dumping the ball off to Bell for just a couple of yards. Tavon Austin returned a deep kick to the 15. The Rams smelled blood and looked vertical on first down, finding Britt for 26 yards for the first explosive play of the day. Mason picked up four yards on the following play after it looked like it would go for a loss. Mason made a sharp cut for first-down yardage on second and six, but the Rams were penalized for a hold.
On second and 17, Foles completed under pressure to pick up about half the yardage. Now third and long, Foles’ pass came up three yards shy of the first down. Brown fair caught the ensuing punt at the 18. On first down, Bell and Vick combined for a 20-yard pickup.
Bell was stuffed for no gain on the following play on the ground. Vick was sacked taking his eyes off the rush on second down, fumbling, but Bell recovered to set up third and 21. He barely got the the line of scrimmage as he scrambled away from pressure. Jordan Berry‘s punt traveled 51 yards with a short return, but the Rams were flagged for a hold, making it in effect a 61-yard net punt.
From the 12, Gurley picked up two yards on the first play of the drive. On second down, he was stopped for a short gain to set up third and seven. A screen pass was held a yard shy of the first down with Will Allen and Ross Cockrell on the tackle. Hekker’s punt was fair caught at the 29.
After stopping at the line, Bell picked up six yards rushing up the left side. Bell spun his way for two yards on the following play. Now third and two, Vick threw what should have been an interception in front of Brown for a three and out. Berry’s punt reached the 10, but was returned 22 yards to the 32.
Jones was the first to hit Mason, but it was Cameron Heyward to make the tackle for a loss of four. On second down, Foles connected with Britt for 10 yards. On third down, Antwon Blake was flagged for pass interference covering Britt down the left sideline for 34 yards.
From the 31, Chris Givens took an end around inside the 10-yard line. From the seven, Sean Spence hit Mason in the backfield for a loss. After a false start, Foles’ pass fell out of the reach of his tight end in the end zone. On third and goal from the 19 after another false start, Foles scrambled to the nine to set up a field goal that brought the score to 9-6.
Following the score, the Rams were flagged for being offside on a touchback, giving the Steelers the ball at the 25 with 5:38 to play.
On first down, Bell broke off the Steelers’ longest play of the game for 23 yards, near midfield, which is a good way to start a critical drive. Bell snuck up for about three or four yards across midfield on the following play. On second down, however, he was stopped for a loss, with Wallace flagged for a hold, a penalty the Rams accepted. So now second and 17, five wide, Markus Wheaton took a big hit on a short gain, with Vick getting hit as well. On third and 13, Bell took another shot as a receiver after a four-yard gain.
St. Louis called a timeout with 3:09 left on the clock. The defense has to come up with a stop to win the game. Foles looked deep on first down from the 17, but Allen, the safety, came up from deep to pick off the pass for the first safety interception for the Steelers since 2013, returned to the 31.
Bell picked up about two yards as the Rams called a timeout, wondering if they will need a touchdown now to win. On second and eight with 2:46 remaining, Bell was stuffed for a short loss as the Rams used their final timeout. Vick’s third-down pass to Heyward-Bey was short of the first down, but it kept the clock moving and made the Scobee field goal attempt considerably easier, considering his recent struggles, which will be taken after the two-minute warning.
With plenty of time to marinate over the kick, Scobee lined up for the 41-yard attempt, which was good, with distance and toward the center of the uprights. The Steelers lead 12-6 with just under two minutes to play, with the Rams out of timeouts.
The Rams began from their own 21, with Britt getting around defenders for 13 to the 34. Foles’ second pass went through the hands of his tight end. Britt picked up four yards out of bounds to set up third and six. Toward Britt again, Foles’ pass was incomplete. Britt went up to grab the fourth-down pass to keep the possibility of a victory alive. The play is under review, however.
Following the review, the officials determined that the pass was incomplete as the ball came loose when Britt’s hand hit the turf. The Steelers took over and were able to close out the game with a series of kneel downs, but they likely lost far more on the day with Roethlisberger’s injury.