The Pittsburgh Steelers returned to Heinz Field for a live game for the first time since their AFC Wild Card defeat to the Cleveland Browns in the 2020 playoffs. This time the game meant nothing, and was against the Detroit Lions in the second official week of the 2021 NFL Preseason.
Nonetheless, with fans in stands, the Steelers were about to put their best foot forward as they had the majority of their starters slated to make their first, and possibly only, preseason appearance of the year. Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Heyward, Joe Haden, Minkah Fitzpatrick and others were all suited up and ready to knock the rust off.
The Steelers started with the football, and after a false start on Chuks Okorafor to start play, the offense struggled behind the chains. On third down Roethlisberger showed signs of his younger years, scrambling in the backfield to create time and room. He delivered a pass to Eric Ebron who dropped the would-be first down catch.
Pressley Harvin took the first punting duties of the night, and after a 50 yard punt the defense took over. After consecutive first downs, the Detroit drive stalled at the 45 and were forced to punt the ball back to Pittsburgh.
With Ben Roethlisberger and the starters staying in the game for their second drive, what ensued was a great mix of pass and run, and a 9 play 82 yard drive which resulted in a beautiful third down touchdown pass to Pat Freiermuth.
The Chris Boswell extra point was good, making the score 7-0 with 9:02 left in the first quarter.
After a three and out by the Steelers’ defense, Roethlisberger and company remained in for a third drive. On first down a play action pass turned into a check down to Najee Harris, and after he made a man miss the 46-yard catch and run put the Steelers in the red-zone.
Two plays later, it was Roethlisberger finding Freiermuth again for another third down, touchdown pass.
Another Boswell point-after made the score 14-0.
The Steelers’ defense prevented another first down on the Lions’ next drive, giving the ball back to the Steelers’ offense with 2:07 left in the quarter. Mason Rudolph took over at quarterback to start the second quarter, and was able to manufacture a scoring drive. However, unlike the drives Ben Roethlisberger orchestrated, Rudolph’s drive ended in a Chris Boswell 35-yard field goal to make the score 17-0.
Detroit failed to do much with the football on their next drive, but the Lions’ punt pinned the Steelers deep in their own end. Rudolph remained in the game and had the offense in Detroit territory, and facing a 4th and 1, at the two minute warning. A completed pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster extended the drive and put the Steelers in scoring range.
Getting into the red-zone, Rudolph faced a 3rd and goal with 15 seconds left in the half. The pass to Pat Freiermuth fell incomplete, and the Steelers settled for another Boswell field goal. The score 20-0 held going into halftime.
The Detroit Lions received the opening kickoff of the second half, but, like almost all of their drives, were unable to do anything with the football. Surprisingly, Mason Rudolph remained in the game for the first drive of the third quarter, and Rudolph did what he does best.
Unfortunately, that meant putting together a lengthy drive which didn’t end in a touchdown, but a field goal. Chris Boswell remained perfect, making the score 23-0 with 7:43 left in the third quarter.
Detroit’s next drive was their best of the night as they put together a 12 play drive to get into the red-zone for the first time of the game. The drive carried into the fourth quarter, and it was the first play of the final frame when the Lions hit pay dirt for the first time with a Godwin Igwebuike 7-yard touchdown run. Detroit chose to go for a two-point conversion, and failed, making the score 23-6.
Dwayne Haskins took over at quarterback on the next drive, and was able to convert on key third downs to extend drives. When in the red-zone, facing a 3rd and 10, Haskins was sacked and resulted in another Chris Boswell field goal attempt. The 42-yard attempt was good, making the score 26-6 with 9:22 left in regulation.
Detroit continued to add to their lead when they drove 75 yards, aided by several Steelers defensive penalties, and capped it off with a David Blough 10 yard touchdown pass to McKinley with 3:11 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Lions were able to execute a perfect onsides kick, giving the ball back to Blough. 7 plays and 54 yards later and the Lions added another touchdown. The extra point was good, making the score 26-20 with 1:56 left in the game.
Detroit bypassed another onsides kick, and Dwayne Haskins was tasked with the job of killing the clock. After connecting with Trey Edmunds for the first down, it solidified the win for the Steelers. The final score reading 26-20.
The Steelers win moves their record to 3-0 in this preseason, and they now prepare for the preseason finale next Friday when they travel to play the Carolina Panthers. Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.