Even though they looked all but dead at halftime, the Pittsburgh Steelers managed to find a way to hang onto their slim playoff hopes with an improbable 37-27 comeback victory over the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions.
This game featured the good, the bad and the ugly for the Steelers, but for a change they made the necessary adjustments in the locker room and turned things around in a positive way.
Let’s take a look at how the Steelers graded out in their second consecutive victory:
Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger was fantastic, completing 29 of 45 pass attempts for 367 yards and four touchdowns. He was great in the first quarter as the Steelers took a 17-3 lead and brought them back from a 27-20 deficit. He also led them on a beautiful 97-yard drive for the lead after the Lions fake field goal attempt blew up in their face. Big Ben finished with a passer rating of 119.4 in wet conditions and didn’t turn the football over. Grade: A+
Running Backs: The Steelers rushed for only 40 yards on 27 carries and rookie Le’Veon Bell continues to struggle, gaining only 36 yards on 18 carries. The only positives came in the passing game as Bell caught four passes for 52 yards, including a big 43-yard catch and run to set up a field goal and Will Johnson also added a touchdown catch to give the Steelers a lead they would not relinquish. Grade: D+
Wide Receivers: Antonio Brown had a huge day with seven receptions for 147 yards and two scores. His biggest play though may have been a big 16-yard catch on third down to keep the 97-yard drive alive. Tight end Heath Miller had a nice afternoon as well with a team-high eight receptions, although he had another drop, this time costing the Steelers a touchdown. Emmanuel Sanders left the game with an injury, allowing rookie Markus Wheaton to step in and contribute a career-high three receptions. Finally Jerricho Cotchery found the end zone again. Overall it was a very solid day for the playmakers. Grade: A
Offensive Line: Big Ben was sacked only once and guard David DeCastro did a fantastic job on containing Ndamukong Suh. Those was the positives for the afternoon, but there were also a lot of negatives, which included rushing for a season-low 1.8 yards per carry. In addition, Guy Whimper, who was filling in for Ramon Foster, took a couple of costly holding penalties that ultimately gave the Lions a short field. Then there was the fact that they couldn’t punch it in on the ground on four plays from the Lions’ 1-yard line. Grade: C-