The Pittsburgh Steelers face a tall task today, even at home, of overthrowing the 5-1 Patriots, and doing so without the services of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Among others, of course, as the team’s entire inactive list is free of healthy scratches. Among the other notable absentees are wide receiver Markus Wheaton, right tackle Marcus Gilbert, and defensive end Cameron Heyward.
For the Patriots, while they have no immediately major injuries, they do have two defensive linemen sitting out, which could be an issue in terms of depth. In a game in which the Steelers are expected to try to pound the ball with Le’Veon Bell, this would certainly be a bonus.
In terms of the division, the Steelers are hoping to get some help from a team they’ve already beaten, as, currently at least, the Jets are beating the Ravens. If Baltimore falls, they will drop to 3-4, and the Steelers will head into their bye week with the division lead intact regardless of the outcome of their game.
Inactives for both sides are as follows:
Steelers Inactive Players
QB Ben Roethlisberger
DE Cameron Heyward
C/G Cody Wallace
T Marcus Gilbert
WR Markus Wheaton
S Shamarko Thomas
RB DeAngelo Williams
Patriots Inactive Players
DL Vincent Valentine
CB Cyrus Jones
TE A.J. Derby
DL Woodrow Hamilton
S Jordan Richards
T LaAdrian Waddle
RB D.J. Foster
The Steelers won the coin toss and chose to receive the ball to start the game. Justin Gilbert was back to return the kick, which was fielded by Fitzgerald Toussaint for a touchback. Landry Jones started off with a quick hook connection to Antonio Brown for a gain of three yards. Le’Veon Bell flanked out on second and seven before checking back into the backfield, taking the handoff for a draw, but he had the ball stripped out for a fumble, which he fell on. That was the second fumble of his career. On third and seven, Jones hit Xavier Grimble, but a few yards short of the first down. Jordan Berry‘s punt was fielded just outside the 20 and returned about 11 yards.
On first down, Tom Brady hit Chris Hogan for a first down, but Jarvis Jones stripped the ball loose and recovered it at the 45-yard line for the turnover.
Off play action with a fullback on the field, Jones looked downfield to connect with Brown for a 25-yard gain to the 20. A false start pushed the ball back to the 25. Bell picked up about six yards on first down to make it second and nine. Another handoff ended with a three-yard gain. On Third and six, Jones threw an interception to Malcolm Butler, in front of Brown in the end zone to spoil the turnover. Sammie Coates also reinjured his hand and went to the locker room.
Julian Edelman took a crossing route nine yards. Brady snuck across the line to move the sticks. LeGarrette Blount pounded ahead for seven yards up the middle. Blount picked up the first on the next play. On a third carry, Jones tackled him after three yards. Lawrence Timmons caught Edelman behind the line of scrimmage on a screen pass for a two-yard loss. On third and nine, Brady was pressured and flushed out of the pocket, but was able to connect with his running back for a 13-yard gain at the right sideline.
From the Steelers, 39, Blount went off right tackle for nine yards. Jones penetrated and tackled Blount in the backfield for a loss. On third and two, Brady escaped pressure and scrambled for the first. After a short carry and a six-yard reception, Brady connected with White with room to run for the 19-yard touchdown. The officials seemed to miss a holding call on the left guard on the play, but if it’s not called it doesn’t count. New England took a 7-0 lead as a result.
Toussaint returned a short kickoff to the 28-yard line. After a two-yard run by Bell, Jones threw deep to Darrius Heyward-Bey, incomplete, and he was flagged for offensive pass interference. On second and 18, the pass went underneath to David Johnson for a five-yard gain. Coming back over the middle, Jones connected with Brown, who looped around the right edge and avoided one defender for nine yards, but it was four yards shy of the needed yardage. Berry’s punt was fielded for a fair catch at the 15. But an illegal formation on the Steelers forced them to re-kick. The second attempt went out of bounds at the 16-yard line.
Stephon Tuitt drove Blount back at the line of scrimmage on first down. Ryan Shazier checked in on second down, covering the tight end. Timmons tackled Edelman right at the first-down marker, but shy. At the top of the second quarter, Blount powered ahead for nine yards.
Once again, it was Timmons chasing Edelman, this for a first down. Artie Burns was flagged for unnecessary roughness after suplexing Hogan following a reception for a first down. Shazier did a phenomenal job of blowing up an attempted screen pass on the following play. On second down, following a false start, a quick hitter to Edelman picked up a handful, but set up a third and long. Brady was able to find Rob Gronkowski for the first down, however. The Steelers wasted a challenge arguing the ruling.
From the 13, Blo0unt found a hole to the left for six yards. He picked up first-down yardage to set up first and goal at the three, and added the touchdown on the next play to put the Patriots up 14-0.
Another short kickoff was returned by Toussaint. Gilbert actually hit a nice lead block to once again get a return near the 30-yard line. On first down, Jones stood in the pocket, but threw a bit wide for Grimble, the pass off his outstretched hands. Off play action, Jones floated a nice pass for Brown down the field, who was able to catch it more or less in stride for a 50-plus-yarder. From the 20-yard line, Bell cut his way for five yards through the middle. On second and five, Bell struggled to win the sideline with early penetration and only picked up one yard. On third and four, Jones found Heyward-Bey in the back left corner of the end zone for the touchdown, getting both feet down before the defender pushed him out of bounds. The slow crawl back starts by cutting it to 14-7 with a nice response drive.
Chris Boswell boomed a ball out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. Blount was met abruptly by Timmons after a two-yard gain. Off play action, Brady under a bit of pressure threw a duck across his body for an incompletion. On third and eight, the defense got its first third-down stop by virtue of a dropped pass by the running back. Brady had a clean pocket and threw a good pass that would have been a first down. Lucky break for Pittsburgh. The Patriots’ ensuing punt was shanked pretty good, just a 25-yarder, out of bounds at Pittsburgh’s 47-yard line.
Ahead of some window dressing with a bluffed end around, Bell was limited to just a yard to the right side. Jones stepped up and hit Bell, but he was wrestled to a halt after a couple of yards. While in the grasp of a defender–in fact, in the air–Dont’a Hightower came in and laid a shot on Bell that drew an unnecessary roughness penalty.
To the 33 with the penalty yardage tacked on, Jones handed a draw to Bell, who made about half a dozen cuts and jukes and drags for a 12-yard gain. One of the more impressive runs you’ll see under 20 yards. From the 21, Bell was able to spin forward for two yards. A quick screen to Brown added about five yards to set up a manageable third and three. From the 14, Jones was able to hit Heyward-Bey over the middle, finding space into the end zone, but Chris Hubbard was flagged for a hold–his second penalty of the game–negating the score and resulting in a third and 13 instead. With good protection, Jones zipped a pass down the field that was closer to a Patriot than a Steeler. Boswell’s field goal attempt was wide right.
From the 32, Brady’s first pass of the drive was deflected at the line of scrimmage. Edelman added seven to make it third and three. Brady once again scrambled for his third first-down conversion of the game.
From the 43, Blount tried to bounce it outside, but he was stopped for no gain. Williams did a nice job of making a shoestring tackle on Blount on a screen to make it a third and three. On the other side of the two-minute warning, the defense got a break for the second time in a row with a dropped pass. There was a hold on the play anyway.
Following a touchback on the ensuing punt, Bell was able to gain eight yards up the middle with some shifty moves. Jones dumped it off to Bell for the first down beyond the 35 and used their second timeout.
Another short pass to Bell picked up seven yards before getting out of bounds. A deep shot to Cobi Hamilton was incomplete, but the officials missed a pass interference on the play. Jones hit Heyward-Bey for the first down, but did not get out of bounds. After a spike, Jones hit Bell to race up the middle for a big gain inside the 25-yard line. Now with no timeouts and 15 seconds to go, a 10-yarder to Jesse James took four seconds off the clock. Jones hung up a pass in the end zone that was tipped by Butler. Boswell’s second attempt of the game was good to make the score 14-10 heading into halftime.