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 we continue Week 3 when the Steelers travel to St. Louis and face the Rams.
Steelers Ram Tough After Locking Horns With St. Louis
St. Louis, Mo
After averaging 34 points-per-game in their first two contests of the 2015 campaign, the Pittsburgh Steelers found themselves locked in a defensive struggle with the hard-charging St. Louis Rams, only to emerge from the Edward Jones Dome most-triumphant by a score of 20-16.
In recent years, Steelers fans have become worried and weary of Mike Tomlin's teams playing down against lesser competition. Sunday's game in St. Louis, featuring a Rams team coming off of a 6-10 season in 2014, represented the sort of situation that Steelers fans understand all to well. The sentiment in Pittsburgh leading up to the contest, caused members of Steeler Nation to channel Admiral Ackbar in Return of the Jedi by exclaiming in English and quite possibly Mon Calamarian..."It's a trap!!!!!".
However, despite encountering a stifling defense featuring a front four of Chris Long, Michael Brockers, Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn that have been channeling the great Ram "Fearsome Foursome" of the late 60s and early 70s, Ben Roethlisberger led an offense that found their way to the end zone twice.
After Greg Zeurlein and Garrett Hartley field goals of 43 and 41-yards respectively in the first quarter, Roethlisberger broke the 3-3 tie midway through the second quarter by zeroing-in on Heath Miller in the middle of the end zone for an eight-yard score. Big Ben threaded a needle right past Ram linebacker, James Laurinitis for the tally.
Nick Foles, running the two-minute drill with the clock winding down in the second, tried to counter with a bullet to Stedman Bailey in the corner of the end zone, but cornerback Brandon Boykin knocked down the pass to save a touchdown. The Tams settled for a 29-yarder from Zeurlein.
At the half, the visiting Steelers led the Rams by a score of 10-6.
The Rams turned up the heat on Roethlisberger in the third quarter, registering sacks on consecutive plays by Robert Quinn and Laurinitis. All in all, the Rams mustered up four sacks on the day, the others by Nick Fairly and a second by Quinn.
An E.J. Gaines interception of Roethlisberger set the table for Zeurlein's third successful kick through the uprights. The 32-yarder cut the Steeler advantage to 10-9.
Not to be out done, the Steeler defense harassed Ram's signal-caller Nick Foles to the tune of three sacks on the day by Stephon Tuitt, Steve McClendon and Lawrence Timmons. The Steeler pass rush also forced two interceptions, one each collected by Cortez Allen and Shamarko Thomas.
Despite a first half of shaking off the rust of his two game suspension with only 28 yards on the ground, LeVeon Bell came to life in the second half. The third-year man from Michigan State began to wear down the St. Louis front-seven with a constant barrage of runs. Behind a solid effort from his offensive line, Bell finished the game with 91 yards. His 18-yard touchdown scamper to begin the fourth quarter gave the visitors a 17-9 lead.
However, the Rams did not go quietly into the night. Speedster Tavon Austin took the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 17-16 with 6:22 remaining on the clock.
The Steelers then closed out the game by riding the back of Bell. Their fourth quarter 12-play drive resulted in a 27-yard Hartley field goal with less than a minute remaining, extending the Pittsburgh lead to four.
With 51 seconds left, Foles led the Rams to midfield. But a Hail Mary fell to the ground at the end of regulation and the Steelers came away with a 20-16 win.
"Obviously, we faced a stout defense today, but we were able to counter with a tough defensive effort of our own", Tomlin said after the game. "Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but the necessary adjustments will be made as we get ready for the Ravens."
The Steelers bettered their record to 2-1, while the Rams fell to 1-2.
With only a short week of practice to prepare, the Steelers return home to face rival Baltimore in Prime Time on Thursday 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.