The Steelers got off to an ugly start to the game, giving up an easy touchdown drive to the Patriots on a series that included a third-and-one conversion because of an offsides penalty, but they have since outscored New England 17-3. Eli Rogers and Martavis Bryant have Ben Roethlisberger’s two touchdown passes, while Chris Boswell connected from 51 to provide the scoring. The Patriots open the second half with the ball.
Mike Tomlin said that he does not expect to see Antonio Brown return to tonight’s game after suffering what was reported as a calf bruise, an injury that looked pretty ugly live and on replay. Update: subsequently, it was reported that he would be taken to the hospital for further evaluation.
Roethlisberger has completed 15 of 19 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns with not turnovers. Le’Veon Bell has 50 rushing yards on 12 carries and another 44 receiving yards on four receptions. JuJu Smith-Schuster has come up with three chain-moving receptions for 36 yards, while Bryant has 53 yards–39 on one play–and a score on three receptions. Brown will appear to end his night with two receptions for 24 yards.
Following a touchback to open the half, Tom Brady threw for eight yards on first down. After a first-down run, Brady hit Dwayne Allen for 11. Near midfield in a hurry, at the 47, a jump cut by Dion Lewis picked up six yards. Brady hit Rob Gronkowski with a fantastic catch and throw beating Sean Davis down the field to the 25.
Rex Burkhead picked up six, inside the red zone now. Vince Williams lit him up after a three-yard gain to set up third and one. A false start on Allen, however, made it third and six. On the play, Brady hit James White with Artie Burns on him, but the cornerback kept him a yard short of the first-down mark. On fourth and one, a Gronkowski slant against Burns went for 11, setting up first and goal.
At the six, Burkhead was limited to a gain of one, but he stayed down on the play. On second and goal, Brady tried to throw the fade to Gronkowski off play action, but Mike Hilton was in on coverage and helped break up the pass. On third down, Brady was able to throw a dart to Cooks with Cameron Sutton in good coverage, but the Patriots missed the extra point, 17-16, after a six-minute opening drive.
Following a touchback, a toss to Bell to open the half for the offense picked up an easy 18, with good blocking on the edge. To the 43, another sweep, coming from out wide to the left, added 15 yards. Smith-Schuster had a key block on the play.
Roethlisberger under pressure looked more like he was just throwing in the direction of a target, thrown down after the pass. On second down, a more traditional Bell run was stuffed for no gain. Now third and 10 at the Patriots’ 42, Roethlisberger tried to dump it off to Bell, who could not hold on to the pass. He was thrown down after the play, but it didn’t draw a flag. Jordan Berry’s punt was fair caught at the 10-yard line.
Bud Dupree tackled Lewis in the backfield on first down to lose a couple of yards. Another completion to Gronkowski, however, picked up 17 against Davis. Brady tried to loft the ball over the top to White, but incomplete. Lewis picked up eight on the ground, however. Now third and two, the Steelers pressured the Patriots at the line, and Brady facing pressure threw an interception to Vince Williams, the first interception against Brady by the Steelers in over a decade. 301 pass attempts.
Taking over at the Patriots’ 22, it was another pitch wide for Bell, picking up five on the play. He charged ahead up the middle for about four, setting up a short-yardage situation. Going 22 personnel, Roethlisberger off play-action found Xavier Grimble for the conversion, down to the five-yard line.
On first and goal, Bell picked up two yards after reversing field and making it all rather exciting, with Roethlisberger throwing a block to boot. On second down, they stuck with Bell, taking it up off left tackle behind David DeCastro for the touchdown. Boswell’s extra point made it an eight-point lead, the biggest lead by either team of the game.
After an incompletion, Brady completed to Gronkowski, who have been their playmaker. But after a short gain of one and then an incompletion, dropped by the fullback, it was third and nine. On the play, from the 43 of Pittsburgh, Brady under pressure threw a duck for an incompletion, facing down Stephon Tuitt.
The Patriots pinned the Steelers back to the three on the kickoff, but Bell rattled off an eight-yard run on first down to end the third quarter. To open the final frame, it was Bell, slipping out of a tackle and heading up the middle for five yards to earn a new set of downs.
At the 15.5, it was James Conner, who was stopped for a short gain. The rookie remaining in the game, Roethlisberger completed to JuJu Smith-Schuster for six yards, setting up third and three. Under pressure, Roethlisberger found Bell to convert as he took a hit. The quarterback has taken a number of shots in this game.
The pitch to Bell gained nothing as he looked to cut back inside. From the 27, it was Bell again for about five yards up the middle. On third and four, officially, Roethlisberger and the offense called a timeout. Heyward-Bey appeared banged up a bit on the broadcast. On the other side of the timeout, Roethlisberger scrambled for the first down, something he’s found that he enjoys doing once or twice a game recently.
Conner, continuing to run with authority, picked up eight yards, but Alejandro Villanueva was flagged for holding on the play, bringing it back. Back to the 28 now, Conner stayed in on the draw, limited to two yards. The rookie stayed down on the play, as Heyward-Bey checked back in. He was helped off the field and directed to the medical tent, which is getting a lot of mileage this game.
Heading into second and very long, Villanueva was docked for a false start to make it even longer. Now second and 23, Roethlisberger handed off for a draw to Fitzgerald Toussaint for just two yards. On third and 21, about as low-success a play as you can ask for, Roethlisberger threw over the middle to Bryant for about eight, as the Patriots get the ball back in a one-possession game with about half the quarter remaining. Berry’s punt was fair caught at just the 28.
On first and 10, Brady audibled to hand off to Lewis for a gain of three. Cooks was marked a yard short on second down, tackled by Sutton. On third and one, Lewis busted open a wide open hole down to the 49.
Around midfield, it was Lewis again for a good gain of seven as Hilton blitzed on the play. Cooks caught the long ball on the next play, but he was out of bounds prior to that, wiping out a 37-yarder. On third and three, Burns drew a pass interference penalty in coverage on an incomplete Gronkowski pass, down to the 21.
Brady looked down the seam for Amendola, incomplete. He was ahead of Hilton, but with Mitchell over the top. Burns in coverage prevented Cooks from making the second-down catch. Now a big third and 10, Dupree was able to get home with the pressure, sacking Brady for the second time of the game for the defense, Heyward with the first. On the field goal, Gostkowski was good, making it a five-point game with 3:56 remaining.
Starting form the 19, Bell slipped working off the left end for one yard. Roethlisberger escaped a sack and was able to scramble for four or five yards, setting up a third and four. A key down. Smith-Schuster was held a yard short of the first down. On the deep punt from Berry, Brian Allen did not get an illegal block in the back call, the tackle made at the 23. Brady’s first pass was tipped and nearly intercepted by Davis. Brady just escaped pressure to hit Gronkowski for 26 near midfield.
On the other side of the two-minute warning, the Patriots with two timeouts in hand, Brady immediately hit Gronkowski for a big play down the field with Hilton blitzing. Quickly down to the 25, the tight end scraped the ball off the ground inside the 10-yard line, tagged down at the eight. With a minute to play, Dion Lewis effortlessly ran into the end zone for the go-ahead score, taking their first lead of the game. Going for two, up one, it was an easy conversion to Gronkowski, who has dominated the second half.
With a return out to the 21 by Smith-Schuster, Roethlisberger had 52 seconds to play with one timeout in his pocket to try to win or tie. On first down, Roethlisberger found Smith-Schuster coming over the middle, cutting up the sideline and escaping all the way down the field, cutting back inside to get all the way to the 10-yard line with 36 second remaining.
On first and goal, Roethlisberger hit Jesse James for what looked liked a touchdown, but as he stretched for the end zone, the officials ruled, upon review, that he did not maintain possession. Now with 28 seconds to go, on second and goal, hit Heyward-Bey for a completion. On the rush, Roethlisberger under pressure tried to hit Rogers on an inside slant, but the pass was popped up and intercepted, robbing the Steelers of a chance to tie the game with a field goal. I’m sure just about all of Pittsburgh is feeling ill right now.