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Steelers overcame plenty of adversity in 20-15 victory over Lions Sunday night

The Steelers overcame a ton of adversity to earn their 20-15 victory over the Lions Sunday night, the kind of adversity they weren't able to overcome earlier in the season.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

As I watched the final moments of the first half of the Steelers’ Week 8 matchup against the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday night, I was feeling pretty excited.

Pittsburgh had seemingly survived some early offensive hiccups and, one series after taking the lead on a 75-yard scoring drive that culminated in a Le'Veon Bell five-yard touchdown run, the visitors had a 3rd-and-1 from the Detroit 23, looking poised to extend their 10-9 advantage right before halftime.

But while fighting for that one yard, Bell was stripped of the football and the Lions recovered at their own 21-yard line.

And after quarterback Matthew Stafford almost effortlessly moved the Lions’ offense 43 yards in the final minute, the home team trotted into the locker room with a slim lead, thanks to Matt Prater's fourth field goal of the night.

As I waited for the second half to start, I seethed over Bell's mistake that led to a six-point swing (at minimum) and how much it reminded me of the six-point swing that occurred in the final seconds of the first half of that disastrous Week-3 matchup in Chicago—a game the Steelers ultimately lost in overtime.

Compounding my annoyed disposition about the lost opportunity that the first half represented, were those aforementioned early offensive hiccups that included a dropped touchdown pass by slot receiver Eli Rogers on the Steelers’ first series of the night and a horrible looking interception by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on their second possession.

Early in the second half, after the Steelers regained their one-point lead on a 38-yard field goal by kicker Chris Boswell, I thought back to Week 5 against the Jaguars, and that slim 9-7 second quarter lead that quickly turned into a 20-9 deficit following two Roethlisberger interceptions that were returned for scores. Boswell’s three points seemed like a cheap consolation prize on the heels of another frustrating offensive series that included Roethlisberger's failure to connect with a wide-open Darrius Heyward-Bey on what would have been a 24-yard touchdown. Then there was the offensive pass-interference penalty on Antonio Brown on what initially appeared to be a nine-yard score.

Just moments later, Pittsburgh's defense had its back to its own end zone, after Detroit quickly marched down to the Steelers’ 4-yard line.

The Steelers had failed to overcome multiple mistakes in their only two losses of the year, and late in the third quarter of Sunday night's clash, it looked as if multiple, critical mistakes might lead to a third defeat.

But just when you thought the Lions would cut through those final four yards like the proverbial hot knife through butter, Pittsburgh's defense held firm, keeping the home team's offense out of its end zone four straight times.

And three plays after holding onto that one-point lead, Pittsburgh extended it to eight, when Roethlisberger connected with JuJu Smith-Schuster on a 97-yard touchdown pass that was worked to absolute perfection by everyone involved—but especially by the veteran quarterback and his rookie receiver.

Believe it or not, the fourth quarter would see the defense survive two more red zone invasions by Detroit's offense, as the Steelers walked away with a satisfying 20-15 win to improve to a very impressive 6-2 at the bye.

Yes, there are concerns, such as the 483 yards the defense allowed—including 423 yards passing by the highly-compensated Stafford (certainly the most talented quarterback Keith Butler's crew has faced so far this season).

And what about those continued misfires on offense that have led to a very unimpressive 20.8 points per game through eight weeks?

Those trends, particularly the misfires on offense, are troubling, but the one thing Sunday's victory had that the previous five really didn't was tons of adversity.

True, the defense yielded a lot of yards through the air, but it didn't allow a touchdown, this despite the Lions penetrating the 20 five times in all.

As for the offense, by my count, it left at least 11 points on the field, but, unlike in the losses to the Bears and Jaguars, it came up with a huge offensive play that turned the tide.

As co-host Bryan Anthony Davis pointed out multiple times on the The Final Score post-game show, the Steelers probably would have found a way to lose that game at the beginning of the year.

But we’re not at the beginning of the year any longer, and the Steelers seem to be morphing into the kind of football team everyone thought they could become.

Halfway through 2017, the Steelers are still very much a work-in-progress.

Now at 6-2 and sitting atop the AFC, this team might be a scary revelation for the rest of the NFL.