The Steelers are back on the road, this time in Detroit, looking to claim third third straight victory, and the sixth overall. A win today would keep them tied for the best record in the AFC and retain a two-game lead in the AFC North.
The most notable inactive today is, of course, Martavis Bryant, who is being benched for disciplinary reasons. As has been the case for most of the season, right tackle Marcus Gilbert and defensive end Stephon Tuitt are also inactive due to injury. Tight end Vance McDonald is missing his second game of the year.
The Lions will be without their starting left tackle, Greg Robinson, replaced in the lineup by Brian Mihalik, making his first career start. Wide receiver Golden Tate, who is banged up, is dressed, but whether or not he will be the same dynamic threat that he is when healthy remains to be seen.
The Steelers took the ball first and Ben Roethlisberger hit JuJu Smith-Schuster deep for a 41-yard gain. Le’Veon Bell picked up seven yards on the ground. He added three yards to move the chains.
Roethlisberger held on to the ball too long and then overthrew Bell for an ugly screen. From the 24, he picked up eight off the left side. Now third and two, Roethlisberger tried to hit Eli Rogers to the right corner of the end zone, but he could not hang on for a dropped pass. Though they only had one play from inside the 20, this technically goes down as another red-zone failure. Still, a 3-0 lead.
Following a touchback, the Lions ran right on first down, but for a loss of four. The Steelers allowed Matthew Stafford to escape the pocket and hit Marvin Jones over Artie Burns, through pass interference, for a big gain down to the Steelers’ 36. After a short pass to Golden Tate, a six-yard pass picked up a new set of downs.
Ameer Abdullah was good for four up the middle on first down, Eric Ebron failed to hold on to a pass through contact with Ryan Shazier. A false start by Brian Mihalik made it third and 11. A false start on the center made it third and 16. The Lions kept it safe with a draw for one yard. Matt Prater made it 3-3.
Roethlisberger hit Smith-Schuster for the second time today, making a tough catch in traffic for 18 yards. Bell picked up a few yards off right tackle to the 46. Jesse James caught his first pass since the Jaguars game for eight.
With a fullback on the field, the Steelers spread it out five wide and Roethlisberger threw deep, intercepted by the safety.
Off the turnover, Abdullah was held for a gain of just two yards to the 19. A similar result on second down. The Steelers got toe Stafford for the first time of the day, Cameron Heyward taking the team lead with five sacks to force a punt on fourth and 17. Antonio Brown signaled for a fair catch at the end of the punt.
After two short gains near midfield, Roethlisberger was under pressure and tossed a long ball behind Smith-Schuster, out of reach. J.J. Wilcox did a great job forcing a fair catch inside the 10 after the three-and-out.
Burns’ lackadaisical effort against the run helped yield an eight-yard gain, then broke Joe Haden’s ankles off right edge for a handful. At the 25, Stafford threw incomplete for rookie tight end Michael Roberts, T.J. Watt in underneath coverage. A screen to Dwayne Washington made it third and six. Stafford overthrew Ebron for an incompletion, resulting in a punt. Mike Mitchell wiped him out. The Coffin kicked pinned the Steelers inside their own 20.
From the 16, Ben checked down to Bell for just a yard or two. The Lions buried the run with Nix as the lead blocker. Now third and nine, Roethlisberger, under pressure again, just had to check down to Smith-Schuster for a short gain, the defense quickly upon him.
The Lions from their 42 after the punt and return, Tate broke a tackle of Mike Hilton on a screen for six yards. After some window dressing, Stafford found Abdullah for the first down. L.T. Walton pressured Stafford immediately and batted the pass as he tried to sidearm the ball. From the 43, Jones was left open down the field, Haden burned on a slant-and-go down to the 10.
Abdullah was limited to three on first down, but a hold on the center made it first and goal from the 10. Walton drew the penalty. Theo Riddick juked Sean Davis on the screen, but still only gained a yard. On second and 19, Haden had good coverage on an incompletion into the end zone, and a catch out of bounds resulted in a field goal attempt. Prater did give the Lions a 6-3 lead.
After an eight-yard pass to Brown and a run by Bell, James Conner was given a carry, but for one yard. Bell pounded his way forward for four. On third and five, Roethlisberger connected with Justin Hunter on the crossing route for the conversion, the ball a bit behind him.
Across midfield, Roethlisberger looked deep for Brown against Darius Slay, but the ball was out of bounds. Bell reversed field for just a yard on the next play. Now third and nine, Brown won the jump ball in front of the defender at the five for 40. On first and goal from the five, Bell showed hesitation before running up the middle for the score, followed by an elaborate team celebrate, miming a bench press.
T.J. Jones picked up a 25-yard catch on first down after the touchback, taking a big hit from Mitchell but hanging on. The rookie Agnew picked up the first on a motion toss to the Steelers’ 38 quickly. Burns made a tackle on a cutback run from Abdullah for five. Javon Hargrave’s pressure up the middle helped induce a bad pass to set up third and five. Hilton had coverage on Tate incomplete to force a field goal attempt from 51, which was good, making it 10-9.
Bell lost two yards on first down up the middle. After a deep incompletion to Hunter, Roethlisberger hit Brown on a crossing screen for 13 on third and 12. Smith-Schuster had a key block. Ben somehow got a pass just past a defender to James for running room, for some 30 yards or so. Down to the 32, with Bell picking up the blitz, Roethlisberger connected with Brown for nine. Passing up a wide open Xavier Grimble, he instead looked deep for Hunter. Now third and one, Bell got the first, but fumbled, losing possession to end yet another promising drive prematurely.
The Lions taking over at the 21, Stafford threw a bullet to Jones for a first, taking a timeout. Jones got between Haden and Mitchell for another big gain of 34 yards. Already at the 27, pressure helped force an incompletion. A connection to Tate put the Lions inside the 20.
Davis broke up the touchdown in the end zone, his second in three weeks. After an incompletion on second down, Haden had good coverage on Jones to the back of the end zone. Prater made it 12-10 with 13 seconds in the half. A knee ended the half.