1. Detroit lost this game at the goal line, bungling three second-half red-zone opportunities. On two of their first three second-half drives, Detroit had first-and-goal from the Steelers‘ 4, only to come away with just three points. The Lions, down one, turned the ball over on downs the first time around after calling two pass plays from the 1-yard line. A Steelers touchdown later, Detroit found itself in the same position, got stuffed on two Dwayne Washington runs and chose to then kick a field goal. Then, with just over two minutes to go, Detroit was back in the red zone, down five, and again went four-and-out, opting for passes short of the sticks and an ill-advised Theo Riddick draw play.
On five second-half drives, Detroit punted just once, yet only came away with a field goal. For a Lions team that prides itself on fourth-quarter comebacks and second-half heroics, Sunday’s defeat will bite.
2. JuJu Smith-Schuster is a joy. Rumored to be pushing Martavis Bryant out of town, the Steelers rookie continued his excellent run of play with a breakout game (7 rec, 193 yards, TD) on national television. Known more for his eccentric celebrations and bicycle dramatics, JuJu went down in Steelers lore with a 97-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter, the longest pass play in franchise history. With the score, JuJu became the only player in NFL history to tally four touchdowns before turning 21 years old. The Smith-Schuster era is just beginning in the Steel City. The same cannot be said for Bryant, who was a healthy scratch.
3. Pittsburgh’s pass defense was really exposed for the first time all season. The unit came into Sunday night ranked first in yards allowed per game (147.0), but allowed more than that (206) to Stafford in the first half. Contributing to Stafford’s big night (423 yards) was that Pittsburgh’s sack-happy pass rushers (T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree) failed to get home against the elusive QB. Stafford led the league in sacks taken heading into Week 8, but was taken down just twice by the Steelers. Stafford also exposed the vulnerable spots of Pittsburgh’s cover-two defense on big plays in the first half.
4. Le’Veon Bell was stuffed for the first time in three weeks on Sunday night. The Steelers workhorse spent Sunday afternoon calling a rookie running back a “mimic” for emulating Bell’s running style, but ended up compiling rookie numbers against the Lions (25 for 76). Give credit to the Lions‘ young front seven, who frustrated Bell on his inside runs and forced him to gain ground outside the tackles.
Bell’s iffy evening on the ground exposed his quarterback’s limitations once again. Aside from two darts to JuJu, Ben Roethlisberger looked vulnerable on passes more than 10 yards downfield. The aging QB overthrew Darrius Heyward-Bey on a would-be touchdown and Jesse James on another big gainer. Pittsburgh again found its rhythm on short crossing routes to JuJu and Antonio Brown, but week-by-week, the Steelers offense is losing dimensions.
5. It’s a good thing Detroit locked up Matt Prater with a three-year extension this week. The kicker knocked in all five of his field-goal attempts, contributing all of the Lions‘ points on Sunday night.
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