By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t take long to show their cards against the New England Patriots, as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger came out throwing during the opening possession and led the Steelers to a 25-17 win Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.
The Steelers had a chance to seal the win midway through the fourth quarter, but Shaun Suisham missed a 44-yard field goal wide right with 6:03 remaining. Pats quarterback Tom Brady led a 10-play, 67-yard scoring drive with clutch passes for 16 yards to Deion Branch, 10 to Rob Gronkowski and a one-yard TD pass to Aaron Hernandez with 2:35 left.
The Steelers appeared to hold the Pats on the goal line, but Ryan Mundy’s pass-interference in the end zone made it first-and-goal, and the Pats scored one play later to get within six. The Steelers got the ball back when an attempted on-side kick failed and held onto it almost to the end. When the Pats got the ball, Brett Keisel sacked Brady and forced a fumble that rolled through the end zone for a safety.
The Steelers had to play the final 18 minutes without outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who had two big sacks before injuring his hamstring chasing Brady. Chris Carter replaced him and jumped offsides in the fourth quarter.
On the Steelers opening drive, Roethlisberger connected four times to tight end Heath Miller for 55 yards and guided the Steelers to an 11-play, 68-yard scoring drive in 5:52. Miller also dropped a tough one inside the 5, but Roethlisberger hit running back Mewelde Moore for the five-yard score.
Shaun Suisham added a 33-yard field goal after a lengthy Steelers drive, 16 plays and 72 yards in 7:47 to make it 10-0, as the Steelers defense stopped the Patriots three-and-out on their opening drive, while LaMarr Woodley’s sack stopped a long Pats drive on their next series.
But after a short run and a sack, Roethlisberger faced a third-and-long situation. The Steelers opened at 5-for-5 on third down, but not this time, as Roethlisberger was picked off. The ensuing run-back by linebacker Gary Guyton for 17 yards made it first-and-goal at the 8. Two plays later, Branch beat Keenan Lewis to the corner for a touchdown.
The Steelers came right back with a 10-play, 76-yard drive in 5:39, as Roethlisberger took to the air again. He hit Emmanuel Sanders for 26, Wallace for seven and 14, Antonio Brown for nine and eventually a seven-yard touchdown to give the Steelers a 17-7 advantage.
Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 46-yard field goal with 29 seconds remaining before halftime to get the Patriots within 17-10. Woodley’s second sack made it a long field goal. Gostkowski also missed a 42-yard field goal with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter.
In the second half, the Patriots got the ball, but the Steelers’ defense did not yield and forced a three-and-out. Roethlisberger led a long drive once again, but 10 plays, 70 yards and 7:06 later they needed a 21-yard field goal by Suisham to make it 20-10. Another Suisham field goal from close range, 23 yards, followed an 11-play, 63-yard drive in 5:54, to make it 23-10.