The Pittsburgh Steelers entered Week 2 coming off an exciting, overtime win vs. AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday. Entering the game 1-0, you’d think the team would have favored against the 0-1 New England Patriots, but the oddsmakers disagreed, having the Steelers as 3-point underdogs in the regular season home opener at Acrisure Stadium.
The Patriots won the opening coin toss, choosing to defer their possession to the second half. Mitch Trubisky and the offense took over after the touchback, and it was the typical three-and-out to start the game. Pressley Harvin boomed a punt which was bobbled at the one-yard line, but went into the end zone for a touchback.
Starting at their own 20-yard line, Mac Jones and the Patriots’ offense took over, and the meticulously moved the ball down the field, converting several third downs throughout the process, but the Pittsburgh defense stood tall in the red-zone and held the Patriots to a field goal. The Nick Folk kick was good, making the score 3-0.
On the Steelers’ next possession, a rhythm started to develop and the offense moved the ball into New England territory for the first time. Jaylen Warren was able to get some traction on the ground, but when the team was threatening, Mitch Trubisky’s pass intended for Diontae Johnson was intercepted. It was the first interception of the season for Trubisky, and the first turnover for the Steelers.
The Pittsburgh defense decided to take matters into their own hands, and it was by way of a Minkah Fitzpatrick interception. It was Fitzpatrick’s second interception of the season, and gave the offense the football at their own 34-yard line.
To start the second quarter, the Steelers put together their best drive of the day. While the drive was highlighted by Najee Harris tough yards, and huge 3rd down conversions to Dionate Johnson, the drive stalled once it reached the red-zone. The Steelers had to settle for a Chris Boswell field goal, which was good, to make the score 3-3 with 8:35 left in the half.
After a three-and-out, Trubisky and the Steelers offense was back on the field with 6:25 left in the second quarter. While they were able to gain a first down, a third down pass intended for Pat Freiermuth fell incomplete and forced another Pressley Harvin punt.
Mac Jones and the Patriots continued to move the ball down the field with relative ease, and the drive was capped off with a Jones pass to Nelson Agholor for the touchdown with 22 seconds left in the second quarter. The point-after was good, making the score 10-3.
New England started the second half with the football, and it looked like the Patriots’ offense was going to pick up right where they ended the second half. However, the opening drive to the second half stalled and Bill Belichick sent out Nick Folk for a 52-yard field goal. The kick sailed wide right, and the Steelers dodged a bullet.
Mitch Trubisky was able to orchestrate a scoring drive off the missed kick, but the drive resulted in nothing more than another Boswell field goal. The 52-yard field goal made the score 10-6 with 5:47 left in the third quarter.
The Patriots’ next drive looked like it ended when a 3rd and 7 pass fell incomplete, but the ensuing punt was fumbled by Gunner Olszewski and recovered by New England. Following a personal foul penalty on the Steelers, the New England drive started at the 10-yard line. Three plays later Damien Harris plunged into the end zone for the touchdown, making the score 17-6.
With 2:50 left in the third quarter, Pittsburgh’s next drive, desperately needing an answer, was highlighted by Najee Harris both catching and running the football. A Gunner Olszewski end around moved the ball into New England territory, and Diontae Johnson got the offense into the red-zone. On a 3rd and 3, Trubisky hit Pat Freiermuth for the touchdown.
The Steelers elected to go for a two-point conversion, and the pass to Diontae Johnson was completed to make the score 17-14 with 14:50 left in regulation.
New England’s drive, which could have equated in a dagger to the Steelers’ comeback hopes, ended near midfield and giving the ball back to Pittsburgh. The next drive started at their own 10-yard line, and it lasted just three plays.
The next Patriots possession started at the 50-yard line, and it too lasted no more than three plays. A touchback gave the Steelers the ball back at the 20-yard line with 8:03 left in the 4th quarter, but the see-saw of three-and-outs continued.
Mac Jones and company took over, and they turned to their ground game to make the difference. Getting the ball back with 6:30 minutes left, they used the ground game to not just gain yardage, but to grind out the clock. Already in field goal range at the 2-minute warning, the clock, and the score, were on the Patriots’ side. Facing a 3rd and 3, with the game on the line, Pittsburgh gave up 5 yards and that carry iced the victory.
The loss moved the Steelers record to 1-1 on the season, as they now prepare for the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football in Week 3. Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers.