STEELERS 25, PATRIOTS 17
Steelers' record: 6-2
One year ago: 6-2
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 15-11
Coach Mike Tomlin assessed the challenge posed by the New England Patriots: "This team prides itself in out-fundamentaling their opponent. We can't be out-fundamentaled in this game. We have to be where we're supposed to be, we have to see what we're supposed to see, we have to do what it is we're supposed to do. We have to do the ordinary things extraordinarily well, and that's what we talked about all week."
It was extremely early in the game, way too early to be considered something definitive, but the way the Steelers started against the Patriots let the visitors know this particular game was going to be different. New England won the coin toss and elected to defer, and so the Steelers took the opening kickoff and promptly drove 68 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown. The Patriots first possession was a three-and-out, and so the Steelers had a lead right off the bat against New England at Heinz Field, something they had not been able to pull off in the previous three meetings here.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT
With two sacks in the first half, LaMarr Woodley posted multiple sacks for the 16th time in the regular season in his five-year career. He also became the first Steelers player to post four straight multiple sacks games since sacks became an official NFL statistic in 1992.
SECOND STAT THAT STANDS OUT
The Steelers held the Patriots to 213 net yards of offense. The previous low-water mark for the New England offense that came into the game ranked No. 1 in the NFL this season was 371 yards, which they gained against Dallas in their previous game. For the mathematically challenged, that's 158 yards below their previous low.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
* The Patriots won the opening coin toss and elected to defer. Defer, with that offense? Bill Belichick took an offensive possession away from his team.
- The Steelers took advantage of that decision with a game-opening drive of 68 yards over 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 5-yard pass to Mewelde Moore. On the drive, Ben Roethlisberger completed 7-of-9 for 66 yards, and he converted all three of the third-down situations. He converted a third-and-4 with an 11-yard pass to Heath Miller, a third-and-11 with a 15-yard pass to Miller, and the touchdown pass to Moore came on a third-and-goal at the 5-yard line.
- On their opening two possessions last season in the game at Heinz Field, the Patriots scored 10 points. In their first two series this time, they went three-and-out, and a sack by LaMarr Woodley set up a fourth-and-29 that forced a second New England punt in the game's opening 20 minutes.
- Answering New England scores with scores of their own was going to be a key for the Steelers, and they were able to do just that following the Patriots first touchdown. On the possession after his interception, Roethlisberger completed 6-of-7 for 68 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown that gave the Steelers a 17-7 lead with less than three minutes left in the first half.
- Stephen Gostkowski, who came into the game having made 10-of-11 field goal attempts, hit the right upright from 42 yards out to preserve what was a 20-10 Steelers lead.
WHAT WENT WRONG
* On the kickoff following the touchdown pass to Mewelde Moore, Shaun Suisham's boot went out of bounds. That gave the Patriots the ball at the 40-yard line.
- It was a second-and-8 at the Steelers 24-yard line when Ben Roethlisberger held the ball until he was sacked by Andre Carter for a 9-yard loss. On third down, Roethlisberger tried to get the ball down the middle to Emmanuel Sanders, but LB Gary Guyton intercepted and returned it to the Steelers 8-yard line. Two plays later, a 10-0 lead had become 10-7.
- On third-and-3 from the Patriots 4-yard line midway through the third quarter, Antonio Brown ran a slant into the middle of the end zone. As Roethlisberger threw the ball, Patriots safety James Ihedigbo had his hands on Brown and was cutting off his progress to the football. No penalty was called.
- It was a 19-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski, but after Ryan Clark was flagged for an out of bounds helmet-to-helmet hit on the Patriots tight end. That extra 15 yards moved the ball all the way to the Steelers 40-yard line. Gostkowski helped minimize the damage by missing a field goal.
- Settling for field goals is never a high percentage move when playing the Patriots, but that's what the Steelers did on two different occasions in building a 23-10 lead with 11:26 left in the game. On the first occasion, Shaun Suisham kicked a 21-yard field goals when the drive stalled at the 3-yard line, and on the second he kicked a 23-yard field goal when the drive stalled at the New England 5-yard line.
- On a third-and-2 at the Steelers 7-yard line, Chris Carter jumped offside. That gave New England a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line with less than five minutes to go in a game in which the Steelers were trying to protect a 23-10 lead.
- More penalties. On fourth-and-goal, Ryan Mundy was penalized for holding Rob Gronkowski in the end zone on a pass that was batted away by William Gay. With the resulting first down, Tom Brady passed to Aaron Hernandez on the next play to bring the Patriots to 23-17 with 2:35 left in the game.
Coach Mike Tomlin listed the Steelers injuries in his postgame news conference. "From an injury standpoint, LaMarr Woodley has a hamstring injury. Marcus Gilbert has an ankle injury. Keenan Lewis has a shoulder injury. Ike Taylor has a shoulder injury and a stinger. We will see where those guys are, and evaluate those guys in terms of moving forward for next week. It was a big win for us today. We will enjoy it today. Then we will move forward."