The Pittsburgh Steelers, as has been the case for the past month and a half, have gotten no help from the Baltimore Ravens in their effort to climb back into the division race. They will enter this big game against the Los Angeles Rams having just watched Baltimore lay waste to a hapless Cincinnati Bengals team en route to a 7-2 record on the season, riding a five-game winning streak.
The Rams are one of the toughest games left on the Steelers’ schedule, and they can’t afford to slip up, especially with some key results in the potential wildcard race also happening earlier today. They will take the field once again without James Conner and Benny Snell, with Ramon Foster and Roosevelt Nix also out due to injury. The other inactives are Paxton Lynch, Zach Gentry, and L.T. Walton.
The Steelers started the game with the ball, the first play a pass from Mason Rudolph to Nick Vannett. The tight end could not bring the ball in, but the play elicited a personal foul on the play. Looking for Vance McDonald down the field, Rudolph threw incomplete. Maurkice Pouncey snapped the ball over Rudolph’s head on the second play, Dante Fowler picking it up and returning it for an easy touchdown.
Jaylen Samuels got his first touch of the game, a run for about three yards. Tony Brooks-James had his right foot stepped on by Pouncey, tripped up for a loss of two. JuJu Smith-Schuster dropped a third-round pass short of the sticks on third down, but he could have had room to turn and run. Jordan Berry did get off a good punt, with Johnny Holton chasing the ball down and forcing the returner out of bounds.
Devin Bush and Mike Hilton combined on the tackle on Todd Gurley on first down. Tyler Higbee got away from Mark Barron for a first down one play later. Jared Goff’s pass on the following play was a backwards pass, but went out of bounds. Mike Tomlin had to challenge the play to get the right call, resulting in lost yardage. Now second and 19, Goff was off the mark looking for Gurley. A safe call, a carry, gained just four on third down. Diontae Johnson was back to return the punt, getting across the 30 for a short gain.
Samuels out of the slot caught a three-yard pass. He got about four on second down on the ground. Now third and three, he found Johnson for the conversion.
Samuels was dropped for a loss of four or five yards on the next play. Rudolph grounded the ball on second down to set up a third and 14. Once again, Rudolph checked down to Trey Edmunds for about nine or so, resulting in another punt.
Taking over at the 16, Gurley found a hole for about nine. He found an even bigger hole for around 15 one play later, Minkah Fitzpatrick having to make the tackle. Now at the 38, this time Vince Williams threw Henderson down at the line of scrimmage of the right side. Gurley back in snuck threw for nearly five. Officially third and six, Goff threw well behind his target, disrupted by late-developing pressure on a well-covered play. Ryan Switzer back to return called for a fair catch at the 17, though it looked like he had room for at least a short return.
Off a free play due to an offside, Rudolph was able to connect with Smith-Schuster this time for a gain of about 20. Johnson was wide open for another big gain, but he dropped the ball. Brooks-James picked up two yards after the drop. Rudolph had time to throw this time and found Johnson for a big catch inside the Rams’ 30.
Chukwuma Okorafor was flagged for a hold on Aaron Donald on the next play. Rudolph was hit as he threw an incompletion. Now second and 20, Rudolph was hit as he threw, the ball picked off, but roughing the passer was called. Pass interference was also called, and they picked that one up.
Now at the 20, Brooks-James got yet another carry, picking up two yards. James Washington came up with the catch, showing man hands, for a first and goal at the five. Samuels fell forward for a couple yards. Now from the three, Rudolph threw to Washington on a fade. It was a close play, ruled a catch, and it stood that way. The Steelers tie at 7-7.
Cameron Heyward batted Goff’s first pass attempt after the score, then T.J. Watt got the run stop on Henderson on second down. Now third and long, Heyward got the sack on the play, though Watt really helped a lot to get there. Johnson was out there again to return the punt, but he fumbled, Williams recovering. He also got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty down there, pushing the Steelers back to the 14.
Samuels got about two or three on the first play. He found some room for about eight on second down. Edmunds looked like he had a head of steam, but took a big hit two yards beyond the line to get stopped in his tracks. Edmunds tried to break a run wide, limited to three. Now third and five, Johnson shook a tackler on a pass short of the sticks to pick up the first down. Off play action, Rudolph misfired to McDonald with Troy Hill in good coverage. The tight end had to break up the pass. A quick pass to Johnson got eight. Now third and two, he was sacked as he tried to scramble.
An 18-yarder to Josh Reynolds on second down. Terrell Edmunds was flagged for pass interference on a downfield pass. Now down to the 44, Williams and Tyson Alualu had the run stop. Gerald Everett was chased out of bounds after a short gain. Goff was off the mark on third down, under pressure by multiple rushers. Artie Burns was flagged for holding on the punt.
Rudolph to Smith-Schuster from deep in their own end to begin the drive, down to the 25. After an incompletion, Rudolph threw to McDonald for a short gain of three. Now third and seven, Donald was left unblocked by Feiler, forced to get the ball out incomplete.
Reynolds picked up 21 to midfield. Andrew Whitworth was flagged for holding on the next play. Reynolds got back 11 to set up second and nine. Watt got the sack on second down, Dupree the run stop on third down. The punt went out of bounds short, starting at the 31.
After an incompletion under pressure, Rudolph found Washington for a big catch, but he had the ball tomahawked out of his hands for a turnover at the 38. Barron made the open-field tackle on the next play down to the two-minutes warning. After a drop on second down, Javon Hargrave hit Goff’s arm, forcing the ball out. Fitzpatrick scooped up the ball and returned it for a score. It looked like it might have been a forward pass, but the call stood on the field.
On the next play, Joe Haden got his hands on the ball, but couldn’t pick it off. Haden forced the receiver out of bounds for an incompletion on the next play. Now third and 10, another incompletion. Switzer called for a fair at the 20.
Rudolph was forced to throw incomplete, hit in the helmet by Donald. Again forced to throw early, he threw hot to Samuels, who picked up four. Now third and six, Rudolph threw incomplete for McDonald. With 1:09 to play and the Rams with one timeout, the Steelers punt before the half, returning the ball the 35.
After a completion to Robert Woods, Everett picked up 17. Kupp dropped a pass after that. From the 41, Cameron Sutton was in coverage on an incompletion. Watt was held on a third-down conversion, back across midfield. Now third and 20, they got about 12 or so to attempt a 56-yard field goal. Greg Zuerlein’s attempt was wide left, as the Rams’ offense was shut out in the first half, the Steelers taking a 14-7 lead into the third quarter.