Steel City Underground presents our 2017 Recall: a brief look back at Pittsburgh Steelers games from last season.
The Steelers were riding high following back-to-back wins against the then-unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs and at home against AFC North foe Cincinnati. Now the question was whether or not a trip to Detroit to play on Sunday night would derail their runaway train, with the bye week looming shortly thereafter.
Fans were convinced that the team might squander an opportunity to stay atop the division with a 5-2 record against the underachieving 3-3 Lions. Such games are typically referred to as “trap games”. The team was dealing with off-field issues surrounding an unhappy Martavis Bryant, who found himself seated firmly on the bench with a one-game team-imposed suspension.
His absence was felt early, as Eli Rogers missed a “gimme” of a touchdown catch, which slipped right through the wide-open receiver’s hands. Ben Roethlisberger, who threw eight interceptions through the first seven games, added a ninth when he tried to force a pass through tripe-team traffic to Antonio Brown.
AB would also see a touchdown taken off of the scoreboard when he was called for a ticky-tack pass interference call too.
It was the way of the world as the Steelers struggled to do anything through one half of football, entering the locker room down 12-9.
It didn’t get much better, as everyone threw food and drinks at their TV sets when Big Ben yet again missed a wide-open Jesse James. His accuracy was awful on Sunday Night Football… however, the concession food went flying a play later when Roethlisberger connected with JuJu Smith-Schuster, on what would be a game-deciding 97-yard touchdown.
While the offense was on a down note, the defense came to play. Tyson Alualu and Mike Hilton made huge plays in this game. The Steelers D didn’t allow a single red zone touchdown, and twice stopped Detroit’s comeback bids on fourth down.
Yet, they were also poor in giving up a boatload of yards to the opponent. Lions QB Matthew Stafford threw for over 400 yards (with both teams combining for 874 total yards of offense) but there was little scoring throughout the contest. The secondary looked weak, giving up five different 20-yard-plus passes.
However, it was enough to secure a tight victory before the midway point of the season.
What Stood Out
The Steelers rookie receiver stepped in for Martavis Bryant and answered when opportunity knocked. JuJu would have 7 receptions on 10 targets, 193 yards and a touchdown: that 97-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to JuJu Smith-Schuster is the longest pass play in Steelers history and also ties the longest offensive play in franchise history.
JuJu Smith-Schuster's 193 receiving yards were also the second-most by a rookie in Steelers history (205, Jimmy Orr, Dec. 13, 1958).
Who could forget...
Smith-Schuster played off of his off-field dilemma of not having a driver's license and being stranded in the city of Pittsburgh when someone stole his bicycle. The news went viral, prompting the receiver to come up with this special "celebration' following a touchdown catch.
Red Zone Defense
As mentioned above, the defense didn't allow a single red zone touchdown in the game, holding their line twice in critical moments. Mike Hilton had a game-saving shoestring tackle which forced a turnover on downs, while Tyson Alualu became a wall that did the same on another drive.
The Steelers head coach has led the team to six wins over the first eight games of a season for the sixth time since he took the job in 2007.
Ford Field Advantage
The Steelers have played in, and won at, Ford Field three times. The previous two were on February 5, 2006 vs. Seattle (21-10 Super Bowl XL) and Oct. 11, 2009 against Detroit (28-20).
Bell's Big Day
Bell tied Eric Dickerson for the fewest games to reach 7,000 scrimmage yards in NFL history in 55 games while also setting a Steelers record for the fewest games to reach 7,000 scrimmage yards with 55.
The team record, 75, was previously held by Jerome Bettis.
Dominant in the trenches
Ben Roethlisberger was not sacked by the Lions the entire game: also the second consecutive game where Roethlisberger had not been sacked.
Play of the Game
The longest pass play in Steelers history, also tying a franchise record for the longest offensive play ever, is the play of the game from Week 8.
The touchdown would put the Steelers ahead 20-15, which would stand as the final score.