WHAT WENT RIGHT
First QuarterThe Steelers defense recorded a three-and-out on its first series. On a third down with ILB Lawrence Timmons blanketing TE Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady had nowhere to go with the ball and was sacked by Jason Worilds to force a punt.
The Brady-to-Gronkowski pipeline opened up during the Patriots' second offensive possession, but the Steelers made a goal-line stand after getting a little bit of help from Bill Belichick in terms of not challenging a play. Rob Gronkowski caught three passes for 72 yards to set up a first-and-goal at the Steelers 10-yard line. On third down from the 7-yard line, Tom Brady passed to Gronkowski who caught the ball and appeared to roll into the end zone without being touched, but he was marked down at the 1-yard line, and Belichick didn't challenge. On fourth-and-inches, Stevan Ridley was stopped by Troy Polamalu and others to complete the goal-line stand.
On the final play of the first quarter, the Steelers faced a third-and-30 and may have gotten a break when the Patriots called a timeout just before the ball was snapped. A quick screen to Bell gained 29 yards, and then the Steelers' rookie running back converted on fourth down to extend the possession.
Second QuarterThe Steelers defense got a second red zone stop after the 57-yard pass to Danny Amendola moved the ball to the 10-yard line. The key play was a 7-yard sack of Tom Brady by Cameron Heyward, and the possession ended with a field goal by Stephen Gostkowski and a 17-3 Patriots lead.
Ben Roethlisberger's 200th touchdown pass of his career was a perfect throw and came at a time when his team desperately needed a touchdown. The Patriots led at the time, 17-3, but Roethlisberger was 2-for-2 on the possession for 38 yards, including the 27-yard strike to Antonio Brown. The other big play on the drive was a 30-yard run by Jonathan Dwyer.
Third QuarterThe Steelers got their first takeaway of the game on the opening possession of the second half. Tom Brady completed a short pass to Stevan Ridley near the sideline, only to have Troy Polamalu rip the ball loose and LaMarr Woodley recovered at the Patriots 36-yard line.
Five plays after the takeaway, the Steelers stuck it into the end zone to close the gap to 24-17 with 11:02 left in the quarter. The touchdown came on a play where Ben Roethlisberger held the ball until Jerricho Cotchery came open down the middle of the field for the 20-yard score.
On the possession following Cotchery's touchdown, the Steelers defense authored a three-and-out, and then Antonio Brown's 24-yard punt return gave the offense the ball at the New England 46-yard line.
Very nicely done by Ben Roethlisberger to convert the takeaway into the touchdown that tied the game. He completed 3-of-4 for 32 yards and the 8-yard touchdown to Cotchery that tied the game, a play coming on a third-and-2 from the 8-yard line. Also of significance was a 25-yard run by Le'Veon Bell that converted a first-and-20 at the beginning of the possession.
A third-and-3 from the Pittsburgh 5-yard line turned into a big play for the Steelers defense when Jason Worilds sacked Tom Brady with the help of a nice inside push by Cameron Heyward. New England settled for a field goal and a 27-24 lead with 2:39 left in the third quarter.
Fourth QuarterWith a touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, Jerricho Cotchery tallied a career-high three in a game, and that upped his season total to five. On the day, he had seven catches for 96 yards and those three touchdowns.
WHAT WENT WRONGFirst QuarterThe Steelers won the toss, and this time decided to take the ball first. A 40-yard kickoff return got things going for the offense, and a 10-yard run by Le'Veon Bell moved the ball across midfield. But on a third-and-2 from the Patriots 36-yard line, Ben Roethlisberger couldn't find anyone open, and LB Rob Ninkovich recorded the sack/strip that DT Joe Vellano recovered at the 42-yard line.
One play after the goal-line stand, Ben Roethlisberger tried to get the ball deep down the left sideline to Antonio Brown, who was being covered by Alfonzo Dennard. The ball was underthrown, and Dennard made contact with Brown, which prevented him from going back for the ball that ended up being intercepted by CB Devin McCourty. It was a second turnover by Roethlisberger over the Steelers' first three offensive possessions.
Second QuarterThree plays after Le'Veon Bell converted a fourth-and-1, the Steelers faced the exact same situation at the New England 32-yard line. Instead of a 50-yard field goal attempt, the Steelers went for it again, and this time Bell was dumped for a 1-yard loss in an attempted run over left guard.
With 10:30 left in the second quarter, or less than 20 minutes into the game. Gronkowski had six catches for 110 and a touchdown, the scoring play giving the Patriots a 14-0 lead. On that play, he beat OLB Jarvis Jones and Tom Brady delivered the ball before Troy Polamalu could get there from his safety spot to help.
It was a possession that ended with the Steelers' first points, a 30-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham, but it was an instance where the offense couldn't convert in the red zone. Ben Roethlisberger had completed passes of 42 yards to Emmanuel Sanders and 17 yards to Antonio Brown, but he and Sanders were unable to hook up on third-and-5 from the Patriots 12-yard line.
Big-time busted coverage on a 57-yard pass to Danny Amendola that put the ball at the Steelers' 10-yard line late in the second quarter. Amendola started in the slot, and neither of the safeties – Ryan Clark or Troy Polamalu – picked him up when he broke down the middle of the field.
On the possession following Ben Roethlisberger's touchdown pass to Antonio Brown that made it 17-10 with less than two minutes left in the first half, Tom Brady drove the Patriots 77 yards in nine plays for an answering touchdown that restored the margin to 24-10 at halftime. The drive was aided by two defensive penalties – 15 yards on Troy Polamalu for pass interference, and 18 yards on Shamarko Thomas for pass interference in the end zone that placed the ball at the 1-yard line.
Third QuarterAnother close call with the play clock on a third-and-10 from the Pittsburgh 36-yard line caused the Steelers to burn a timeout, and then the ensuing play was an incomplete pass to Heath Miller. The situation was compounded when Mat McBriar came on to hit a low punt down the middle of the field that Julian Edelman returned 43 yards to the Steelers' 34-yard line as the quarter ended.
Fourth QuarterA third touchdown catch by Jerricho Cotchery brought the Steelers to 41-31 with just more than six minutes left in the game. When the kickoff coverage unit made a tackle at the 7-yard line, it seemed as though the defense would have a chance to make a stop and get the offense the ball back. But after one first down, Tom Brady found Aaron Dobson running free behind Ike Taylor and Ryan Clark for an 81-yard touchdown that put the Patriots back up by 17, 48-31.