PITTSBURGH – It must have felt like a double-bonus type of victory for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With the defense holding firm in the final seconds, the Steelers snapped a three-game losing streak to save their season with a 17-10 victory that allowed them to hang on to first place in the AFC North.
And they beat the dreaded New England Patriots, too.
It wasn’t decided until the final seconds at Heinz Field, when Tom Brady’s fourth-down pass to the end zone for Julian Edelman was batted away by Morgan Burnett.
With that, the Patriots’ monkey is off Pittsburgh’s back … for now.
But more importantly, Pittsburgh (8-5-1) remained ahead of the surging Baltimore Ravens in the race for a division crown. New England (9-5) had won its past five matchups against the Steelers, but the tables of heartbreak finally turned.
It was fitting that Pittsburgh's defense sealed the win. The Steelers’ typically explosive offense got a huge game from rookie running back Jaylen Samuels, but it struggled to produce points as Ben Roethlisberger threw two interceptions.
But Brady threw a pick, too, late in the fourth quarter as Joe Haden made a spectacular, leaping snag along the sideline to thwart a scoring threat. Brady came back for another shot a few minutes later, but four straight passes fell incomplete, including the final throw that set off the celebration and allowed the Steelers fans to exhale
Three things we learned:
1. Gronk might have had a “Miami Miracle” hangover
Usually, Rob Gronkowski blisters the Steelers to no end. But this has been anything but a typical season for the Patriots’ all-pro tight end, who in addition to posting underwhelming offensive production throughout the year failed (and flailed) miserably as the last line of defense on the Dolphins’ miracle touchdown as time expired in the Week 14 matchup. Maybe Gronkowski had a Miami hangover, as he didn’t catch a pass until the fourth quarter and finished with just 2 catches for 21 yards. And when the Patriots were desperate for a game-tying TD in crunch time, Brady threw for Gronkowski on back-to-back passes to the end zone … and came up empty.
2. Pittsburgh’s latest “featured” running back deserves a game ball
With James Conner missing his second consecutive game (ankle injury) and Le’Veon Bell, well, absent, Samuels stepped up in huge fashion to complement the typically heavy load on Roethlisbger. He rushed for 142 yards on 19 carries, which included ripping off the chunk runs that have been missing from the Steelers offense. The fifth-round pick from North Carolina State also caught two passes for 30 yards, including a 20-yarder on third-and-8 late in the fourth quarter that kept alive a field goal drive. What a clutch performance.
3. Chris Boswell can take the breath away from Steelers fans
A week after he slipped on the turf in Oakland while attempting a game-tying field goal in the final seconds, the Pittsburgh kicker was showered with a large roar of cheers after he kicked the PAT to cap the game-opening TD drive. It was a show of good-natured humor. Yet the cheers turned to groans for Steelers fans in the third quarter when Boswell’s 32-yard field goal try sailed wide right. Boswell was money in tight games last season, but that hasn’t been the case lately. So Pittsburgh fans held their breath as he attempted a 48-yard field goal with 2 ½ minutes remaining. Then they exhaled as the kick extended the lead to seven points.
Follow Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.
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