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As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepared to face off to open up the 2015 NFL regular season, rain was in the air, but so was a ton of smoke from the huge pre-game celebration the home team put on to honor the 2014 Super Bowl Champions. When the smoke cleared, there was a game to be played and it was the Steelers who were granted the football after losing the opening coin toss, with the Patriots deferring to the second half.
It was Ben Roethlisberger and company who took the ball to open up play, and did so with the intent of silencing the raucous home crowd. The team did just that behind DeAngelo Williams who broke an 18-yard run on the first play from scrimmage. The drive moved well into New England territory before a Antonio Brown reverse pass lost eight yards, followed by a hold on Marcus Gilbert which left the team with 2nd and 28. The offense then worked just to get back into field goal range and Josh Scobee missed a 44-yard field goal to give the Patriots the ball in good field position to start their opening drive.
The Patriots were able to move the football, but a Bud Dupree sack on 3rd-and-10 resulted in the Patriots giving the football back to the Steelers with no damage on either side of the scoreboard. The first quarter ended with no score.
To start the second quarter, the Patriots took the football and between Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, the Steelers' defense had no answers and a Brady to Gronkowski touchdown pass gave the Patriots a 6-0 lead. After a Stephen Gostkowski 33-yard PAT, the Patriots took a 7-0 lead.
The Steelers took the football on the ensuing kickoff and were able to move the ball well into Patriots territory thanks to a 43-yard pass from Roethlisberger to Darrius Heyward-Bey. But this drive would result in another Scobee missed field goal, a 46-yard attempt that gave the Patriots great field position.
The Patriots took that field position and drove down the field, and before you knew it, another Brady to Gronkowski touchdown pass made it 13-0 Patriots. Another Gostkowski PAT would make it an even 14-0 for the Patriots with four minutes left in the opening half.
The Steelers' next possession would have Roethlisberger finding Antonio Brown for a big gain down the sideline. With two minutes remaining in the half, the Steelers turned to the no-huddle offense and were faced with a 4th-and-3. The Steelers decided to forego another Scobee field goal which would have been a 53-yard attempt, and go for it on 4th down. The team converted on a pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey to keep the drive alive. But the drive would eventually stall with three seconds remaining in the half. A 44-yard field goal by Josh Scobee made the score 14-3 heading into halftime.
The Patriots took the opening kickoff of the second half and wasted no time getting back to work. In under five minutes, New England took the ball 80 yards, capped by a Scott Chandler touchdown followed by a Gostkowski PAT to extend their lead 21-3. The Steelers' defense hadn't made a third-down stop since the Patriots' first drive of the football game, and they continued to have major communication issues in the back end of their defense.
The Steelers' offense wasn't ready to go quietly and, behind several big runs by DeAngelo Williams and a 33-yard pass to Antonio Brown, the Steelers were able to get into the red-zone. Three plays later, a one-yard touchdown run by Will Johnson cut the Patriots' margin to 21-9. The Steelers would then go for the 2-point conversion and convert on a quick slant-pass to Markus Wheaton to make the score 21-11.
The Steelers' defense was in desperate need of a defensive stop, and they got one in the form of a Will Allen sack of Tom Brady on a 3rd-and-5 play which resulted in only the second punt of the game for the Patriots. The Steelers would then take the football deep in their own territory and drive into New England territory, thanks to a beautiful sideline catch by Markus Wheaton for 26 yards. The Steelers had a first-and-goal as the third quarter come to an end.
In a series of seven plays to start the fourth quarter, the Steelers were unable to hit pay dirt and had to settle for a Scobee 26-yard chip shot to narrow the lead to 21-14 with just over 11 minutes left in the football game. But the Patriots put their foot back on the pedal on the ensuing drive, going 80 yards capped by yet another touchdown pass to Gronkowski resulting in a 28-14 lead with under 10 minutes remaining.
After the Steelers responded with a 3-and-out, the Patriots started their next possession from their 25-yard line, but New England's own 3-and-out series gave the ball right back to the Steelers at their own 35-yard line with seven minutes remaining in the game. But a Roethlisberger interception seemingly sealed the victory for the Patriots in a rain-soaked second half.
With two seconds remaining in the game, Roethlisberger threw a beautiful pass to Antonio Brown to make the score 28-21. But when all was said and done, the Patriots were the ones leaving the field 1-0, while the Steelers return to Pittsburgh with a sour taste in their mouths.
The Steelers will host the San Francisco 49ers at Heinz Field next Sunday, while the Patriots face the Buffalo Bills in Week 2 action.