Did the Steelers escape a “trap game” in Detroit?

I hate the phrase “trap game” and this Detroit road game had the makings of it. The Steelers just came off of two huge AFC wins with a 5-2 record to travel to a non-conference opponent, the Detroit Lions. Fans are accustomed to seeing the Steelers “play down” to road opponents, and some of the occurrences in this game led you to believe they could walk out of the Motor City with a loss.

First, this game was intense before it ever started. The Steelers were without the WR Martavis Bryant, due to a benching by Coach Tomlin for his social media complaints about playing time and targets.

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Eli Rogers was one of several receivers who came off the bench to fill in for Bryant. During the opening drive of the first quarter, the Ben Roethlisberger called Rogers number in the red zone, only to see Eli have that pass go right through his hands for what would’ve been a sure touchdown.

The offense settled for a field goal.

The narrative continues after a game-tying field goal by the Lions’ Matt Prater. Big Ben looks downfield for Antonio Brown, trying to a thread a needle when he was triple teamed (actually fourple teamed – my new word). The play ended with an interception.

The Steelers defense came to play Sunday night, holding the Lions to field goal after field goal, but you just felt something was “off” with Pittsburgh. Fans were waiting for that “aha” moment, all night. One would happen on a ticky-tack offensive pass interference call which took an Antonio Brown touchdown off of the board. Another would occur as the offense put together a nice drive right before the end of the first half, only to see Le’Veon Bell fumble, and lose, the football for the third time in his career.

While the offense sputtered at times, the Steelers defense rose to the occasion, not allowing a single touchdown despite an over 400-yard passing performance by Lions QB Matthew Stafford. I say “sputtered at times” when referring to the offense because of the 20-year old rookie Juju Smith Schuster who had a record-setting night.

Standing in his own end zone, after missing TE Jesse James wide-open down the field, Ben found Smith-Schuster, as the duo connected on a 97-yard touchdown catch; the longest in NFL history by a 20-year-old player. It was also JuJu’s fourth touchdown of the season, making him the youngest NFL player to have four touchdowns before his 20th birthday, and if that weren’t enough, it was also the longest pass play in Steelers history.

That score put the Steelers up 20-15, with Detroit still in striking distance. The Lions would have their own “aha” moments including a ridiculous fumble by WR Golden Tate, and failing to convert on fourth-and-goal rather than attempt a field goal, which may have given the Lions a chance for a game-winner near the end of regulation with the league’s most accurate kicker from distance.

In history.

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The end wasn’t without drama either, as one of the Lions defensive players, A’Shawn Robinson threw a couple of punches to the head of Steelers guard Ramon Foster, right as the Steelers took a knee to end the game.

He would be ejected for the cheap shot.

The Steelers now head into the bye week with a 6-2 record. It will be interesting to see how the Martavis Bryant situation plays out and if a few players can get healthy going forward. Stay tuned.

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