In this new series, BTSC will take a look at the possible outcome of each of the 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers opponents and analyze not just the potential outcome, but how the game plays out. We will travel week-by-week through the schedule, and start with Week 1 when the Steelers travel to Foxborough to open the 2015 NFL season against the Patriots.
Steelers Blow A Chance To Take Air Out Of Pats
The sentiment around Pittsburgh going into the 2015 NFL Season Opener was "No Brady, No Problem". But the Steelers faced a much tougher task against the defending champions, falling in the waning moments 25-24.
With their exiled quarterback, Tom Brady, sitting out the first two games after having his Deflategate suspension reduced last week, New England struggled to find their groove early on offense. However, behind the long arm of Jimmy Garoppolo, New England made a late charge on their home turf.
The scoring started early in the first quarter as Ben Roethlisberger went deep early, connecting on a 46-yard pass play to Martavis Bryant, landing them inside Patriot territory on the 29-yard line. After a couple of DeAngelo Williams jaunts for a first down, the drive stalled on the 18 and the Steelers settled for a Garrett Hartley field goal from 35 yards out.
Midway through the second quarter, Pittsburgh struck again after James Harrison blew by Nate Solder and jarred the ball loose from Garoppolo for a fumble on the Patriots 39. Ryan Shazier recovered and the Steelers offense converted when Antonio Brown hauled in a slant from Roethlisberger and ran 33 yards to pay dirt.
Roethlisberger, who threw for 273 yards, added his second of two touchdowns in the second quarter, when he completed a seven-yard pass to Markus Wheaton to run the score to 17-0.
Late in the second, The Pats showed signs of life as Garoppolo managed the two-minute drill well, by completing six of seven for 62 yards on the drive. A play after Cortez Allen dropped a sure interception in the end zone, the second-year quarterback from Eastern Illinois found newly-acquired Reggie Wayne in the end zone from 17-yards out. Bill Belichick decided to forgo the extra-point and was rewarded as Brandon Bolden ran in the conversion to make the halftime score 17-8.
To open the third quarter, Pittsburgh relied on a steady diet of DeAngelo Williams early and often. Williams, subbing for the suspended LeVeon Bell, capped off a 14-play drive with a 3-yard plunge, pushing the score to 24-8. The former Carolina Panthers back rushed for 82-yards on 24 carries for the game.
Late in the third after a Garrett Hartley missed field goal from 45-yards out, The Patriots began to mount their comeback.
Moments after a Stephen Gostkowski 39-yard field goal, Dri Archer muffed a punt recovered by Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler. Garoppolo responded by hitting Rob Gronkowski on the very next play, making the score 24-18.
After a Steelers three-and-out, Garoppolo engineered a 77-yard drive, capped-off by a 6-yard strike to Gronkowski with 41 seconds on the clock. Garoppolo finished with 322 yards, 3 touchdowns and one interception, a second quarter pick at the hands of Brandon Boykin.
With the score 25-24, Roethlisberger started from his own 30. After a 28-yard pass to Brown and a 16-yard completion to Heath Miller, Garrett Hartley's 43-yard field goal attempt sailed wide-right, thwarting the Pittsburgh comeback and completing the Patriots stunning resurrection.
"We had them on the ropes all night, but obviously we couldn't get them to tap out", said a dejected Mike Tomlin after the game. "It's not how we wanted to start out, but we will make the necessary adjustments and go from there."
At 0-1, the Steelers return home next week to host the San Francisco 49ers at Heinz Field.
Be sure to check back tomorrow, and every day leading up to the start of the 2015 regular season, for the latest edition of 16 picks in 16 days.