The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the second half with a 14-13 lead, courtesy of a pick six from Doran Grant and a touchdown reception by Darrius Heyward-Bey. The Detroit Lions scored two field goals, including one at the end of the first half, as well as a touchdown, but they also threatened on their opening drive before James Harrison recorded a strip sack against Matthew Stafford.
The Steelers’ offense struggled through much of the half behind Landry Jones under center, though he was not the only one to blame, but the scoring drive was a strong one. Defensively, performances have been up and down.
The Lions quickly found themselves in a third-and-long situation after Doran Grant made the tackle on a second and 15. With six yards to go, however, the third-string quarterback, Ruddock, scrambled for the first down, to the 40.
Ricardo Mathews made the tackle near the line of scrimmage on the following play. Vince Williams was able to make the stop after a short pass over the middle after a five-yard gain. On third and four, L.J. Fort met the receiver the same time the ball did, preventing a completion to force a punt, which was successfully downed inside the five-yard line.
Bruce Gradkowski checked in to start the second half. He handed off to Daryl Richardson on first down for a two-yard gain after evading a tackler in the backfield. A false start set them half the distance to the goal. Another handoff to Richardson this time produced no gain. On third down, a screen pass to Richardson fell short of first-down yardage.
Will Monday‘s punt hung short and was returned comfortably into Steelers territory. From the 33, a short pass to the back produced a short gain with Williams in coverage. A short run produced a third-and-one, with Fort coming in to make the tackle for no gain. The Lions converted for a 42-yard field goal to take the lead.
Richardson caught a screen pass after the touchback to pick up yardage near the first-down marker. On second and one, he made good on the possession, showing burst for eight or nine yards. Getting the carry again, Richardson wiggled his way for just a yard or two approaching midfield. Gradkowski completed to Coates, who spun out of first contact to get to the first-down marker and making sure to hold on to the ball.
Gradkowski looked downfield but found nothing open, flushed to his left and took a slide to settle for a short gain. From the Lions’ 41, Richardson did well just to get back to the line of scrimmage. On third and long, Gradkowski showed off his ‘wheels’ to scramble for the first down, though it seemed he took his time getting up.
Now from the 31, Gradkowski had to use a timeout with the play clock ticking down. Dustin Vaughan entered the game after the timeout, handing the ball off for a two-yard gain. A false start yielded to an end-around for rookie Demarcus Ayers for a first down, something that he has done in college as well. Jesse James threw a block out in front.
Vaughan got hit with the blitz up the middle for the sack to knock the offense further from the red zone. Brian Mihalik seemed to be rolled up on in the process and stayed down after the sack, with the medical staff quickly taking a look at him, but he soon got up and walked off somewhat gingerly under his own power.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Steelers ran a reverse with Coates, who once again lost the ball with a defender hitting his arm and popping it loose, though the offense recovered. After a loss, Vaughan completed to Cobi Hamilton well short of the first down but to set up an easier field goal conversion. Chris Boswell‘s kick allowed the Steelers to retake the lead, 17-16.
Boswell’s ensuing kickoff hung just shy of the goal line, but the returner was able to find a crease, and he wound up going through the kicker in the process for the score after 97 yards. Boswell looked to take a knee to the head in the process, but his effort was good. The Steelers want their kicker to remain back as the last line of defense. The Lions attempted a two-point conversion, spread four wide, and it was good to Davis, though one defender nearly jumped in front of the pass. Detroit leads 24-17.
On Cameron Stingily‘s first carry of the game, he was stymied going left, bounced right to get back to the line of scrimmage, plus three. Vaughan was unable to connect with the tall Issac Blakeney toward the left sideline. Vaughan fired a hot, high pass from a short distances, but Ayers did well to corral it, though shy of the first down. Fort was the first one in on the tackle after the punt.
With some of the bottom of the roster players now in, Tyler Matakevich was not long in making his first tackle on second down. On third and four, Dwayne Washington, the man who returned the kickoff, forced a missed tackle in the secondary for a long gain to the 47. He forced his way across midfield on a carry to follow.
Ruddock’s throw was low, but his tight end reeled it in for the first down. Mike Reilly stayed in front of a running play as the back tried to slip past for a tackle for a short gain. On second down, the quarterback tucked and scrambled to make it third and short. It went to Ridley up the middle for the conversion.
Off play action, Ruddock overthrew his receiver down the field. On third and nine, Chase Billingsley made several tacklers miss after catching the ball on a hot route for the touchdown as the Lions pile up the points late, taking a 30-17 lead after the extra point bounced off the goal post.
Richardson took the ensuing kickoff and brought it out past the 20. Vaughan threw wide to Hamilton on first down, who nearly brought it in anyway. Vaughan escaped a sack and threw a dart to Marcus Tucker, but the receiver bounced the ball off his chest. On third and 10, however, he was able to connect with Hamilton over the top for a first down. He found Paul Lang on the following throw for a short gain. On second and eight, Vaughan escaped another sack and got the ball out, though incomplete; a hold negated the play. The next throw was errant and out of bounds. On third and 18, this time, he could not escape the sack.
The Lions struggled to even hold on to the ball on the following drive, with Devaunte Sigler getting a tip on the final pass of the drive. Ayers received the punt and was able to move laterally, but not much upfield with it. An illegal block in the back topped it all off, charged against Al-Hajj Shabazz.
Brandon Brown-Dukes checked in and got the first touch of the drive, shaking two tacklers in the backfield. Vaughan got out of pressure to find Hamilton again for a first down, but a hold negated his efforts. He found Brown-Dukes in the passing gam for a short gain, but Vaughan was taken down from behind with a hard hit. He threw into double coverage to Hamilton incomplete. On fourth down, Monday punted it away, and Grant helped draw a fair catch to effectively end the game.