Looking to avoid a trap game before next Sunday’s showdown against the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers dominated play in the first half, jumping out to a 13-0 lead and holding the Buffalo Bills to just 15 plays.
Pittsburgh dominated the first half in just about every category, leading on the scoreboard, 13-0, winning the time of possession battle, 23 minutes and 55 seconds to 6:05, holding a significant advantage in total offense, 225 to 51 and a 18 to 4 advantage on first downs.
The Steelers though failed to put the Bills away and Buffalo scored 16 second half points, including 13 unanswered points and trailing 16-13 with just seconds remaining, Rian Lindell kicked a 49 yard field goal with 2 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
Buffalo won the toss in overtime and after the Steelers and Bills traded possessions, Buffalo appeared to have put the game away as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick found wide receiver Stevie Johnson wide open in the end zone and Johnson dropped what would have been a 40-yard touchdown from Fitzpatrick that would have sealed the win in OT for Buffalo.
Johnson beat Ike Taylor and Ryan Clark deep on the gimme touchdown that ended up being his 5th dropped pass of the game.
The Steelers were fortunate to still be alive and after forcing Buffalo to punt, Shaun Suisham hit a 41-yard field goal with 2:14 left in overtime to give the Steelers a 19-16 vistory.
Suisham came up big in the game, hitting all four of his field-goal attempts, including a 48-yarder, 45-yarder and 46-yarder.
His decisive kick capped a 13-play, 58-yard drive which Ben Roethlisberger kept alive by hitting Mike Wallace for a 17-yard catch to convert third-and-8.
Rashard Mendenhall had 151 yards rushing and scored on a 1-yard run. Hines Ward had seven catches for 107 yards, and Roethlisberger finished 20 of 33 for 246 yards.
Mistakes in the second half plagued the Steelers as the Bills turned the Steelers mistakes into points.
The game’s complexion turned late in the third quarter with the Steelers up 13-0, when James Harrison broke in untouched and, with his head lowered, struck Fitzpatrick just beneath the chin as the quarterback got off a pass.
Harrison was penalized 15 yards for roughing the passer and being a repeat offender, Harrison faces another potential fine from the NFL for leading with his helmet.
Harrison’s penalty kept the Bills drive alive and moments later, Fitzpatrick responded by hitting Jackson for a 65-yard touchdown catch and run to cut the Steelers lead to 13-7.
The Bills passing game had some life and with Bryant McFadden leaving the game due to a hamstring injury, Fitzpatrick targeted 2nd year cornerback Keenan Lewis who was called for a pass interference penalty deep in Steelers territory that led to a Bills field goal at 13:32 of the 4th quarter, cutting the Steelers lead to 13-10.
The Bills then tied the game at 13-13 just 2:07 later on a scoring drive set up after Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd stripped Mendenhall of the ball at the Steelers 23. It was the second straight game Mendenhall fumbled.
Pittsburgh’s defense was getting exploited in the passing game but came up big in keeping the Bills out of the endzone and limiting them to field goals despite good field position.
Pittsburgh went on to take a 16-13 lead with 6:09 remaining in the game on a 48 yard field goal from Suisham, his 3rd of the game.
Ahead 16-13, Troy Polamalu stepped up and made a diving interception at the goal line after Fitzpatrick’s pass bounced off Stevnie Johnson’s fingertips with 2:51 left in regulation.
The Steelers offense looked to put the game away but penalties would give the ball back to the Bills with just enough time to force overtime.
With under two minutes remaining and the Bills using up their timeouts, Pittsburgh was faced with a 3rd and 7 from their own 25 yard line and Roethlisberger connected with Emmanuel Sanders for a gain of 17 yards, moving the ball to Pittsburgh’s 42 yard line with 1:33 remaining. The play was called back as left guard Chris Kemoeatu was called for holding, putting the Steelers in a 3rd and 22 situation.
Kemoeatu struggled mightily with containing Bills defensive linemen Kyle Williams.
The Bills got the ball back with 46 seconds left, and at the Steelers 46 after special teams ace Keyaron Fox was penalized 15 yards for a late hit on the ensuing punt.
Unnecessary penalties were at the forefront of the Steelers issues in the second half as the Steelers were penalized 10 times for 107 yards in the game.
The Steelers were lucky to come out with the victory but nonetheless they improve to 8-3 on the season and are in position to take over first place in the AFC North next Sunday in Baltimore.
*The Steelers rushed for 206 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Rashard Mendenhall topped the 100 yard mark for the first time since week 3.
*Pittsburgh improved to 20-3 all-time when Troy Polamalu records an interception. Polamalu’s 4th quarter interception was his 4th of the season.
*Lawrence Timmons led the Steelers with 8 tackles.
*James Harrison had 6 tackles and 1 sack in the game. Harrison has 10 sacks on the season, matching his sack total from 2009.