It all came down to this. The Week 15 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots. Before, and during, the season, this game was circled by both teams, and even the NFL, as a marquee matchup.
There was plenty on the line for both teams, but mainly the Steelers. A Pittsburgh win would give them the inside track at home field advantage, and also push the Patriots to the No. 3 spot in the AFC Playoff Picture. However, a New England win would have them in line for the top seed in the AFC when the regular season ends.
When the game officially started, Pittsburgh had the opening possession, but failed to make a statement early. Instead, punter Jordan Berry was called on for early duty, giving the ball to Tom Brady for the Patriots’ first possession.
It didn’t take New England’s offense long to move down the field on the Pittsburgh defense. 6 plays, 77-yards later and Rex Burkhead plunged into the endzone for the touchdown to give the Patriots an early 7-0 lead.
Ben Roethlisberger matched Brady on the next drive, with several key throws to JuJu Smith-Schuster, but the best was a nifty pass to Eli Rogers for the red-zone touchdown to tie the game 7-7 after the Chris Boswell point-after.
7️⃣➡️1️⃣7️⃣ to get things started.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 17, 2017
PIT 7 | NE 7#HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/H23jtrLmIm
After the Pittsburgh defense forced their first punt of the game, Roethlisberger took over and connected with a big pass play to Martavis Bryant which put them in the red-zone; however, after an offensive pass interference call, and a sack, Pittsburgh had to settle for a Chris Boswell 51-yard field goal to take the lead 10-7.
Trailing for the first time in the game, Brady orchestrated a scoring drive of his own, but this time the Pittsburgh defense stood tall in the red-zone, forcing a Stephen Gostkowki 32-yard field goal to tie the game 10-10.
What happened next was incredible to watch. Without Antonio Brown, who left the game with what was deemed a calf injury, the Steelers took over 8-minutes off the clock to move the football into red-zone. With 30-seconds left in the half, on 3rd-and-goal, Roethlisberger lofted a beautiful pass to Martavis Bryant who hauled it in with one hand for the Pittsburgh score.
Only one needed.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 17, 2017
PIT 17 | NE 10 pic.twitter.com/zR1lF0ipDS
The touchdown, and Boswell point-after, gave the Steelers a 17-10 lead heading into halftime.
New England got the first possession of the second half, and Brady answered Roethlisberger’s long drive to end the first half with one of his own. This drive included several key conversions, but none bigger than a 4th-and-1 pass to Rob Gronkowski, and a 3rd-and-goal touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks. However, Stephen Gostkowski missed the point-after to keep the Pittsburgh lead 17-16.
After a Pittsburgh punt, the Steelers defense intercepted Tom Brady for the first time in 12 years when Vince Williams tipped a pass and corralled it for the first turnover of the game, giving the Steelers offense tremendous field position.
Short field for the offense courtesy of this @VinnyVidiVici98 interception.#HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/pkWlwBCmSB— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 17, 2017
Just a few minutes later, it was Le’Veon Bell diving into the endzone for the Pittsburgh touchdown, giving the home team a 24-16 lead in the third quarter.
The Bell is ringing in Pittsburgh.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 17, 2017
PIT 24 | NE 16 pic.twitter.com/cePitF5bet
With the Patriots forced to punt the ball again, Pittsburgh had a chance to put some points on the board and making their lead a two-score deficit, but after two penalties the Steelers were forced to punt the ball, but not after chewing up 7-minutes while clinging to an 8-point lead.
Brady took the Patriots down the field, but when the field got short, Pittsburgh’s defense stood tall and forced a Gostkowski field goal to make the score 24-19 with 3:56 left in the game.
It took Brady only 70-seconds to put the Patriots back up on top. Huge completion after huge completion to Rob Gronkowski moved the ball well inside Pittsburgh territory before the go-ahead touchdown run. The Patriots went for two, and made it, after another pass to Gronkowski, giving them a 27-24 lead with 50-seconds left.
Roethlisberger hit Smith-Schuster with a huge gain, putting the Steelers in field goal range, and what looked like a go-ahead touchdown pass to Jesse James was over turned, and Roethlisberger ended up throwing an interception on third and goal.
An embarrassment to the league for the game to end the way it did, and a horrible call by the league to negate the James touchdown.
The loss moves the Steelers’ record to 11-3, and now with plenty on the line next week as they travel to play the Houston Texans on Christmas day.