When: Week 15
Location: Heinz Field
Opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots
Sound familiar? It should, because it is the same location and week the two teams battled it out in controversial fashion in 2017 with the game ending in the Jesse James overruled catch, followed by a Ben Roethlisberger interception to give the Patriots the win.
Would 2018 be different? The two teams are hardly battling for the same thing this time around. The Patriots, who have all but sealed up another AFC East division crown, are attempting to get another first round bye in the AFC Playoffs. But the Steelers, losers of their last three games, are clinging to a tiny lead in the division and their playoff hopes fading fast.
The Patriots lost the coin toss, and the Steelers elected to take the football to start the game. What transpired next was an impressive drive taking over 6-minutes off the clock, driven by Jaylen Samuels’ running and catching, as Roethlisberger capped off the drive with a strike to Vance McDonald from the 5-yard line. The drive stats were 11 plays, 75 yards, taking 6:20 off the clock.
The #Vanimal is out of his cage. pic.twitter.com/1CCx5AGt50— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 16, 2018
Chris Boswell’s point-after was good, giving Pittsburgh a 7-0 lead.
It didn’t take long for Tom Brady to respond. In fact, after an initial first down New England caught the Steelers’ defense in a coverage gaffe and Brady’s pass to Chris Hogan went for 63 yards and tie the game 7-7.
After each team punted for the first time in the game, the Steelers started with the ball at their own 8-yard line. Roethlisberger was near perfect the entire drive as the offense marched 92-yards and finished the drive with a dart from Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown.
Yo, it's about that time.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 16, 2018
To bring forth the rhythm and the rhyme.#TouchBrown pic.twitter.com/NI7vKtgZop
The Boswell extra point was good, giving the Steelers a 14-7 lead. The overall highlight of the drive was none other than Eli Rogers, who was recently taken off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list and activated this week.
But the story of this game was always about the Steelers’ defense, and they continued to stand tall against Brady and company throughout the game. But when the Patriots pinned Pittsburgh at their one-yard line, Stevan Ridley and Jaylen Samuels burst the team near midfield and poised to strike again. However, an errant Roethlisberger pass sailed into the arms of a Patriots’ defender giving the ball right back to New England.
The Steelers’ defense held strong and forced a three-and-out giving the ball back to Roethlisberger with 5:13 left in the first half, but they gave the ball back to New England after their drive stalled around midfield. The Pittsburgh defense was able to stand tall, and both teams headed into halftime with Pittsburgh clinging to a 14-7 lead.
New England started the second half with the football, but failed on 3rd and 6 giving the Steelers’ their first possession of the second half. Pittsburgh responded with a rookie led drive featuring huge catches by James Washington, and more nifty running by Samuels. The drive got into the red-zone, but ended with a 32-yard missed field goal by Chris Boswell when the team could have made their lead a two score lead.
Brady and company responded, like we all knew they would, and drove the Patriots down the field to add to their lead with a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. The chip shot made the score 14-10 with 17 seconds left in the third quarter.
When it looked like the Steelers were going to have an opportunity to put more points on the board, a pass intended for Antonio Brown was bobbled and fell into the lap of Duron Harmon for his, and Roethlisberger’s, second pick of the day.
The Patriots moved into the Pittsburgh red-zone, but on a 2nd-and-goal play from the 16 yard line Brady was flushed out of the pocket and threw a poor pass which was intercepted by Joe Haden.
Thank you, @joehaden23. pic.twitter.com/L4vuhEEJk1— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 16, 2018
With a chance to take the new possession, and put the game away, the Steelers, driven by rookie running back Jaylen Samuels, drove the ball into New England territory. Several key third down conversions forced the Patriots to burn their timeouts prior to the two-minute conversion. On a third-and-six, Roethlisberger targeted Smith-Schuster, and the pass was broken up. Boswell then nailed a 48-yard field goal to make the score 17-10 with 2:30 left in the game.
Plenty of time left on the clock for Brady to move his team into position to tie the game, and a huge strike to Julien Edelman moved the Patriots deep into Pittsburgh territory. With 20 seconds left in the quarter, on 4th and 15, Brady’s pass to the endzone fell incomplete...ending the game.
The Steelers win moved their record to 8-5-1, keeps them in 1st place in the AFC North and primed for another run as they head to New Orleans next week to play the Saints in Week 16. Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the Steelers heading forward.