Talk about a tale of two halves—the Pittsburgh Steelers dominate the second half and defeat the Detroit Lions 37-27 on a rainy, unpredictable day in Pittsburgh. Donning their iconic “bumblebee/prisoner” alternate jerseys, the Steelers could not have looked worse—specifically defensively—in the first half. But they certainly rebounded with some outstanding second-half performances by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and a frustrated, angry Steelers defense.
The Steelers got off to an early and impressive 17-3 lead. Two touchdown catches by wide receiver Antonio Brown—one on the first-offensive series which marked the first time the Steelers had scored on their first possession all season—and some nice, if somewhat lucky, defensive play gave Pittsburgh the 14-point cushion.
But the Lions bared their claws when quarterback Matthew Stafford found a wide-open Calvin Johnson for a 79-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 17-10. Stafford found Johnson a few possessions later for another score to tie the game and the Steelers could not stop the first-half bleeding. The Lions took the lead into half time 27-20 looking unstoppable—52-yards and one touchdown on the ground, 327 yards and two touchdowns passing. Johnson ended the first half with six catches for 179 yards and two scores.
The Steelers personified their bumblebee-appearance, looking slow and outmatched by the more powerful Lions. At half time, it looked like this year’s Patriot game all over again.
But half time is when the bleeding stopped.
The second half starting out slowly, each team exchanged a few lackluster drives before Pittsburgh was able to notch a field goal with 10:25 left in the third quarter. The Lions looked like they were going to get the points back on their following possession when they lined up for a field goal from the Pittsburgh 10 yard line.
That’s where momentum turned in the favor of the Steelers. The Lions attempted some trickery faking the field goal with a direct snap to holder Sam Martin who got smacked by Steelers linemen Steve McLendon and Cameron Heyward, and fumbled the ball which was recovered by safety Ryan Clark at the Steelers three yard line.
The Steelers then marched the ball a hard-fought 97 yards culminating with a one yard pass from Roethlisberger to fullback Will Johnson for the score.
It was all Pittsburgh from there.
The Steelers defense shutout the high-powered Lions offense in the second half, racking up two turnovers while limiting them to only 72 yards. Most impressively, however, was the play of Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor on Calvin Johnson. As mentioned earlier, Johnson was murdering Taylor in the first half. In the second half, Taylor and the Steelers defense adjusted to their first-half mistakes and held Johnson without a catch.
Roethlisberger was impressive, not only in some clutch fourth-quarter drives, but all game. He played perhaps his best game of the season.
It wasn’t a complete whole-game win like last week against Buffalo, but the Steelers definitely can be proud to take down a division leader and offensive juggernaut like Detroit.
MVP – Ben Roethlisberger
Ben was marvelous all game long. Two quick touchdowns to his favorite target, Antonio Brown, and several long, clutch, Roethlisberger-esque fourth-quarter drives gives Ben this week’s honor. Roethlisberger finished the game 29 of 45 for 367 yards and four touchdowns (119.4 RTG).
LVP – The Offensive Line
If the Steelers are going to make a legendary push to the playoffs, the offensive line will more than likely be the key to achieving it. But it cannot play like it did against Detroit. The Steelers amounted only 40 yards rushing and had trouble picking up short-yardage downs—notably one instance in the third quarter when they couldn’t get a push down on the goal line. Only surrendering one sack is a big, big plus, but 40-yards-rushing isn’t going to cut it.
X-Factor – Antonio Brown’s Speed
This guy is a burner and he was showing it Sunday. Brown caught two touchdowns and had over 100 yards in the first quarter alone. Where Calvin Johnson—who matched Brown catch for catch in the first half—disappeared in the second half, Brown was still able to get separation, picking up key first downs in allowing the Steelers to continue moving the ball. Brown finished with seven catches for 147 yards and those two touchdowns.
Key Stat – 3-0
That was the turnover score, in favor of Pittsburgh. It’s been a long while since we’ve seen that, right Steelers’ fans?
Tweet of the Game
Referencing the somewhat odd decision to fake a field goal up 4 in the third quarter, ESPN’s Mike Greenberg captures the momentum swing of the missed opportunity by the Lions.
Wow… If #Lions lose by those 3 points…
— Mike Greenberg (@Espngreeny) November 17, 2013
What This Win Means
Sigh. It means this: don’t give up your hopes yet, Steeler fans. The backdoor to the playoffs opened just a little wider.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns
FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
November 24, 2013, 1 p.m. (ET)