The first half could have gone better for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but only enter the third quarter trailing 17-14. The defense allowed the New Orleans Saints a field goal in the final 40 seconds of the half after the offense drive 97 yards for a game-tying touchdown with a successful two-point conversion. Chris Boswell connected on two field goals, including from 49 yards, and Ben Roethlisberger connected with Jaylen Samuels for the two-yard touchdown pass. Sean Davis recorded an interception early in the game on a Taysom Hill pass.
Boswell’s opening kickoff went for a touchback. On first down, Mark Ingram was hit for a loss by Stephon Tuitt. Immediately after that, Drew Brees hit Alvin Kamara out of the backfield on a wheel route, turning on the jets for about 42 yards. From the 34 now, Ingram picked up a couple of yards on the ground. Brees got a pass out to Michael Thomas under pressure, who was able to gain five yards. Now third and three, Kamara was able to convert with a reception, Mike Hilton on the tackle but beyond the first-down marker.
Brees had his second pass batted on the following play, this one popping up. Hilton had a chance to snag it out of the air, but Brees knocked it down. Now Taysom Hill in the backfield, Kamara got the handoff for about six yards. On third and four, Brees connected with Thomas for a first down as Morgan Burnett hit him on the blitz.
On first and goal from the eight, Ingram bounced the run outside and nearly scored, but Joe Haden forced him down at the one. Haden took a bad angle to allow that penetration in the first place. From the one now, Ingram tripped forward for only half a yard. Marked at the one, Kamara went over the top for the score, putting the Saints now up by 10, 24-14, with 24 minutes to play.
Trying to respond starting from the 25, Roethlisberger was able to get a pass out to Smith-Schuster, who made a tackler miss for a nice gain; however, an ineligible man downfield penalty wiped out the play, pushing them back to the 20 and making it first and 15.
Roethlisberger found Smith-Schuster again, who bounced off of a defender for 12 yards to make it second and three. Ryan Switzer in the backfield, Roethlisberger eventually found Smith-Schuster again, who got 23 to the middle of the field. He is slow to get up after these plays, however.
At the Saints’ 45, out of empty, a quick slant to Brown picked up 17 yards, but he was tripped up before he could make it to the sideline. Inside the 30, Roethlisberger threw at Brown’s feet as pressure neared. He found Brown again for 13 down to the 16.
Now in the red zone, an inside screen to Switzer went all the way down to the three, once again setting up a first and goal. Five wide and empty, Roethlisberger threw the ball seemingly out of the back of the end zone, though Brown did get a hand on it incomplete. Brown was open for a score with a better throw, admittedly. Now second and goal, he was flushed out wide and just threw to empty space with Vance McDonald in the area. Now looking at third and goal from the three, he found Brown for an easy touchdown, his 14th of the season, which is a new franchise record. The Steelers trail again by three at 24-21.
Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt got to Brees on the second play of the following drive, the first play being a first down. Watt got the credit. Now second and 16, Watt made a great tackle to force an incompletion on second down against Ingram, who was slow to get up. On third and 16, the defense got to Brees again, a number of players there, chiefly Tuitt and Bud Dupree. Tuitt created the play. Great defensive stand at a crucial time to give the Steelers an opportunity to take control of the game late in the third quarter.
Starting from the 34 following a punt, Roethlisberger flushed out to his right before firing down the field to Brown once again to the Browns’ 40. A blitz-beating dump-off to Smith-Schuster quickly picked up another 20, to the red zone again.
From the 20, Brown nearly came down with a stunning one-handed touchdown, but he couldn’t completely get his second foot inbounds. The Steelers took a timeout after the play. On second down, Roethlisberger hit Brown this time for the score over the top of two defenders to take the lead. Brown now has 15 touchdowns on the season, tied for the second-most of any type in a season in team history.
Kamara was stopped for one yard on first down on the Saints’ following drive. Thomas was tripped up after seven yards on second down. Now third and two, Brees’ pass was broken up in nice coverage by Morgan Burnett, who had a big pass interference penalty in the first half. On the punt, Switzer fielded it for a fair catch at the 25.
Now with the lead, Jaylen Samuels got the pitch for seven yards, the Steelers’ first run of the second half. He bounced off a hit for four yards with second effort to get the first down. From the 36, Samuels was able to get to the edge past the safety for a nine-yard run, throwing a stiff-arm. Off play action, Roethlisberger found Eli Rogers for a short pass to convert, but he got hammered, nearly losing the ball.
Near midfield, it was Ben to Brown again for another first down. Over 150 yards now between them. Approaching field goal range, a screen to Samuels gained seven as he showed good ball security to weather a gang tackle. Now second and three inside the 40, Roethlisberger gave it to Samuels, who took what he could get inside for about a yard and a half or so. Third and short, officially two yards to go, Stevan Ridley came into the game and was stopped for no gain. The officials ruled that he lost the ball and the Saints recovered.
So now Brees has the ball again, trailing 28-24, at his own 35 and plenty of time remaining. This game may come down to who has the ball last. Or from the 30 after a false start.
Brees connected with Ginn for 14 yards on the first play of the drive to the 44. Kamara got a yard and a half to about the 46. Then Keith Kirkwood got open for 23 to about the Steelers’ 30. Kamara was stopped after a yard on the following play. Heyward was able to draw a holding penalty against the Saint’s backup left tackle, Andrus Peat. That negated a big first-down play. Now on second and 19, a short pass to Ingram only got nine back. On third and 10, on the long end of field goal range, Benjamin Watson couldn’t hold on to the pass. It was behind him but catchable if difficult. The 50-yard field goal attempt from Will Lutz was blocked by L.J. Fort, Watt also affecting the play by bulldozing the right wing and giving his fellow linebacker a clear lane to get a hand up. It’s the Steelers’ second field goal block of the year.
Unsurprisingly, the Steelers went back to the air, and to Brown, on a quick inside slant for five yards with under six minutes to play. But Roethlisberger took a deep sack on second down by Demario Davis. Now third and 14, Roethlisberger threw short to Brown, who was tackled several yards shy of the first, receiving in a three and out. The Saints will now have a chance to close out the game with a four-minute touchdown drive. The Steelers ran a fake punt with Roosevelt Nix getting the carry, but he was stopped half a yard short, giving New Orleans the ball on their own side of the field.
At the 46, Brees with 4:06 to play started the drive with a quick hit to Josh Hill for five yards. He converted to Ginn with under three minutes to play for the first down. At the 34, Brees’ pass to Kamara on a wheel route was too long. Pressure forced a throwaway on second down. A completion to Thomas was short by two yards. On the other side of the two-minute warning, Haden was flagged for pass interference on an incomplete pass on the play.
From the 22 now, Kamara was corralled after a two-yard gain, but a holding penalty negated the play. That was on the right tackle. The first pass looking for most of the 32 yards needed was incomplete, Coty Sensabaugh with the tip incomplete at the boundary. On second down, Brees narrowly escaped a sack, but Kirkwood dropped the pass, right in the numbers. Third and 20, Brees found Ginn open down to the eight with 1:33 to play, the Steeler using their second timeout.
A quick slant to Thomas on first down got down to the one, one-on-one with Haden, the Steelers using their final timeout. With 1:27 to play on second and goal from the one, just inside of the two to be more precise, Thomas caught a pass with his feet in the end zone. It wasn’t ruled a touchdown on the field, but it went under review and was overturned properly for the score.
The Steelers now trail 31-28, and the offense will have about 85 seconds but with no timeouts to try to at least get a field goal, if not a touchdown for the win.
From the 20 following a false start, Roethlisberger was lobbed over the top looking for James Washington for the first time in the game, incomplete. Now second and 15, Roethlisberger stepped out of pressure but threw the ball into the ground after a defender jumped in front of his open man. Down to third and 15, his receiver fell on the play, Washington, on a long ball, no flag. The game was prolonged by Brown with a stellar sideline reception for the needed yardage.
With 1:02 to play from the 39, Roethlisberger threw high but Smith-Schuster snared it to go over 100 yards across midfield. Spiked with 45 seconds to play at the 47, an incompletion down the seam to McDonald drew an illegal contact penalty, a five-yard penalty for a first down.
At the 42 and on first and 10, five receivers on the field now, the game ended on a Smith-Schuster fumble that the Saints easily and clearly recovered. The Steelers will now essentially need the Browns to beat the Ravens in Week 17, or have the Titans and Colts tie.