Entering Week 15, the Pittsburgh Steelers had a golden opportunity to defeat the New England Patriots. The Patriots have had Pittsburgh’s number as of late, including last year’s AFC Championship game. The Week 15 matchup would most likely decide the number one seed in the AFC playoffs and was highly anticipated. This year, Pittsburgh had all of their offensive weapons primed for a victory over New England. However, late game defensive woes and an unfortunate ending saw Pittsburgh fall yet again to New England. Although Pittsburgh showed improvement, they still fell to New England 27-24.
Week 15 Pittsburgh Steelers Takeaways
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Pittsburgh Steelers led New England 24-16. They had done mostly everything right. Le’Veon Bell got his way all night with the Patriots defense. Bell carried the ball 24 times for 117 yards and a touchdown. The passing game was flourishing as well, with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant both having success. Defensively, Pittsburgh contained Tom Brady and the New England offense by pressuring Brady. The most impressive stat from Sunday was Pittsburgh’s ball control. Pittsburgh held the ball for just over 35 minutes, while New England had possession for just under 25.
When It All Fell Apart
All of this was boding well for Pittsburgh, then the fourth quarter happened. And as he has so many times, Tom Brady did it to Pittsburgh again. This time Brady used Rob Gronkowski to inflict pain on Pittsburgh. Gronkowski took over in the fourth quarter with three big receptions on New England’s final drive. Steelers safety Sean Davis had trouble staying with Gronkowski, who also caught New England’s two-point conversion attempt over Davis. The defense that had done so well to contain Brady again refused to adjust and got picked apart.
“Surviving the Ground”
Despite giving up the lead, Pittsburgh’s offense still had an opportunity to respond and win the game. On the first play of Pittsburgh’s final drive, Smith-Schuster caught a Roethlisberger pass and ran 69 yards. On the next play, Roethlisberger found Jesse James for what looked like the game-winning touchdown. However, after an extensive review that lasted over four minutes, the call was overturned. The next two plays represent the biggest issue for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Failure to Execute
Roethlisberger found Darrius Heyward-Bey for only three yards, and Heyward-Bey failed to get out of bounds. With no timeouts, Roethlisberger looked as if he wanted to spike the ball and take the field goal. However, Roethlisberger faked the spike, and fired a pass to Eli Rogers, who was the only Steelers receiver to run a route. The pass was deflected and intercepted, ending Pittsburgh’s hopes of victory. The problem is, regardless of the bad call, Pittsburgh still should have won the game. By failing to draw up a successful play with over four minutes, Pittsburgh sealed their own fate.
Ultimately, the loss was not season ending, and Pittsburgh will play on Christmas at 4:30 in Houston against the Houston Texans. The loss for Pittsburgh was their first since October 1st. However, if Pittsburgh still wins out, they will be the number two seed, and number one if New England losses. The first round bye is crucial, considering Antonio Brown’s calf injury that will keep him out a few weeks. The loss to New England hurts, but Pittsburgh must now work to meet them again in the AFC Championship game.
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