By Christina Rivers
The Pittsburgh Steelers began two offensive possessions against the Detroit Lions on Sunday with touchdown connections between quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown. It was a hot start to a game that was charged with energy in the first quarter. While the Steelers struggled to keep Lions receiver Calvin Johnson in check during the first half, their regrouping at halftime eliminated Johnson’s deep threat and allowed the Steelers defense to log the highest takeaway percentage in a single game so far this season (+3). With a 37-27 win over Detroit, the Steelers move into a three-way tie in the AFC North and look to increase their battle in the division by using the win as momentum against the Cleveland Browns.
Despite getting a lot of static from fans and the media about trade rumors, Ben Roethlisberger maintained a relatively cool demeanor while on the field, using the no-huddle to orchestrate offensive strikes that paid off at the right time for Pittsburgh. Down 27-20 at halftime, the offense gelled with their quarterback and Roethlisberger was able to put 17 second-half points on the board. The most notable drive was an 11-play, 97-yard fourth quarter drive that took over eight minutes off of the clock. “We had a game plan, we stuck with it,” said guard Guy Whimper who has been holding his own of late. “When we start off in the no-huddle you can tell Ben [Roethlisberger] takes control over the play calling … and it worked in our favor.” Roethlisberger finished with 29 completions for 367 yards and four touchdown passes.
Head coach Mike Tomlin addressed the use of the no-huddle during his Tuesday press conference. “There is a lot of preparation that goes into this,” said Tomlin. “There is a menu of plays decided upon collectively during the course of the week, and [Roethlisberger] is simply picking from that menu. We’re not there unscripted … that wouldn’t be fair to him.” Tomlin explained that the plays aren’t technically different from their offensive scheme overall, but that communication is a key element and the plays are in a “smaller menu” of what plays are selected. Tomlin noted that the no-huddle offense can be dangerous if communication isn’t available and that the television broadcasts of games often reveal too much if it is used with too much frequency.
Roethlisberger wouldn’t have been able to be as efficient if the offensive line that has been bruised and battered all season hadn’t held up. Despite an injury to nearly every offensive lineman that played on Sunday against Detroit, they maintained, creating opportunities for Roethlisberger to find open receivers. Guard Ramon Foster (ankle) is expected to return to play against the Browns. Center Fernando Velasco (knee) and offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum (hip) will also be active.
Receiver Emmanuel Sanders was forced from Sunday’s game against the Lions due to a foot injury and is expected to be limited in practice, but coach Tomlin said that the team is “encouraged by the state of his health.”
Tight end Matt Spaeth, who has been on the reserve/injured designated for return list for the first 10 games of the season due to a Lisfranc injury looks to work back into practice this week. “We’ll take a look at where he is and let that be our guide in terms of his participation,” said Tomlin. The Steelers will have 21 days to evaluate Spaeth and activate him if they feel his rehabilitation is where it needs to be.
Safety Shamarko Thomas (high ankle sprain) and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (hamstring) are considered doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Browns in Cleveland. The Steelers expect all other players to be full participants in practice this week, including Brett Keisel.
AFC North Notes
Cleveland led the Bengals 13-0 before a blocked punt and then a fumble were returned for a touchdown against them. Cincinnati took advantage of miscues in a game where the Browns had more first downs (15-10), more total net yards (330-224) and more passing yards (228-118) than the Bengals. Cincinnati continues to lead the division. Final score: 41-20
Baltimore battled the weather at Chicago and lost in overtime, 23-20. After a nearly two-hour rain and weather delay in a state that saw devastation from tornadoes, Baltimore got off to a quick start only to lose their 10-0 advantage when play resumed. Ray Rice put up a season-high 131 yards and scored his first touchdown in five games. Chicago kicker Robbie Gould put a field goal through the uprights to force the win and send the Ravens packing.
While Cleveland and Pittsburgh battle it out in division play this Sunday, the 7-4 Bengals have a bye week. Baltimore will host the New York Jets.
For more Steelers news and updates, visit Steelers Central.
Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a reporter and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied exercise physiology and sports psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. Her work can be found on