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Big Ben outduels Brady in 25-17 Steelers Victory

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The Pittsburgh Steelers exercised some demons this Sunday evening with a 25-17 victory over the New England Patriots and handed QB Tom Brady his first loss at Heinz Field since the 2004 season. Ben Roethlisberger, not Brady, went all-out in the passing game, racking up 365 yards and two touchdowns.

Pittsburgh was 2-4 in the regular season and postseason against the New England Patriots in the Ben Roethlisberger era. That includes a 1-4 mark against quarterback Tom Brady and a 1-3 mark in the supposedly friendly confines of Heinz Field.

After a 25-17 victory against Brady and the Patriots at home, the Steelers are one step closer to evening those head-to-head records and now find themselves in the driver’s seat of the AFC, with a half-game lead for the conference’s top seed in the playoffs.

Ben Roethlisberger turned the tables on the Patriots, who have historically shredded the Steelers in the passing game, and racked up 365 yards and two touchdowns. Brady himself managed just 198 yards in the limited time he had to work with – Pittsburgh held the ball for 39:22 of the game’s sixty total minutes and 13:36 of the first fifteen-minute quarter.

The offense spent the first six minutes of the game chipping down the field on the back of tight end Heath Miller, who caught four passes in an eleven-play scoring drive. Mewelde Moore capped it off with a five-yard touchdown catch to give Pittsburgh a quick 7-0 lead.

The defense did its part next, holding the Patriots to a three-and-out on their own first possession.

That would turn out to be their only three plays of the first quarter, as the Steelers embarked on a sixteen-play monster of a drive that ate up the final 7:44 of the first stanza. Shaun Suisham gave Pittsburgh a 10-0 lead with a 33-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter.

New England put a sustained drive together on the next possession, but the door to Pittsburgh territory was slammed shut by LaMarr Woodley, who knocked away a pass and picked up a sack on back-to-back plays to force a punt.

The Patriots received a shot in the arm just three plays later, though, thanks to an ugly interception by Roethlisberger. Linebacker Gary Guyton took the pick to the eight-yard line and Brady hooked up with Deion Branch two plays later for a two-yard score.

Ben and the offense answered with another five-minute scoring drive. Pittsburgh didn’t face a third down until the final play of the ten-play effort, when Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown for a seven-yard touchdown and a 17-7 lead.

New England managed to knock in a field goal before the end of the half to cut the lead to seven, but went into the locker room doubled up in time of possession (21:13 to 8:47) and tripled up in total yards (261 to 83).

The Patriots second half offensively began exactly like its first, with Brady and the gang going three-and-out on their first possession.

Pittsburgh followed that with another extended drive – a fourteen-play, seven-minute series that ended three yards short of a touchdown. Shaun Suisham hit the chip-shot field goal to make it a two-score game again.

New England tried to answer on the ensuing drive, but a Stephen Gostkowski field goal attempt clanked off the uprights. Suisham had better luck to open the fourth quarter, hitting another short field goal to cap off another lengthy drive.

Another field goal attempt by Suisham sailed wide, and the Patriots rose from their slumber. Brady and the offense moved down the field with the help of some timely penalties and made it a one-score game with a touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez.

They’d get one more shot before it was all said and done, with nineteen seconds remaining in the contest, but a sack-fumble by Brett Keisel forced the ball out of the back of the endzone, resulting in a safety and sealing a Pittsburgh Steelers victory.

Injuries
LaMarr Woodley left the game with a hamstring injury and did not return. Marcus Gilbert (ankle), Keenan Lewis (shoulder), and Ike Taylor (neck stinger, shoulder) all left the game at various times.

Through the Air
Big Ben was outstanding for much of the game, attempting a season high 50 passes for 365 yards and two touchdowns, though he did throw an interception in the first half. Antonio Brown caught a team-high nine passes for 67 yards and a score. Heath Miller and Mike Wallace even caught seven balls, for 85 and 70 yards, respectively. Emmanuel Sanders also notched 70 yards, but on five receptions. Mewelde Moore caught Ben’s other touchdown pass.

On the Ground
The running game was quiet, but effective as the Steelers offense turned to the air for most of the afternoon. Rashard Mendenhall racked up 70 yards on 13 carries for a 5.4 yards per carry average. Isaac Redman had less room to roam, picking up only eleven yards on seven carries.

Defense
No turnovers for yet another game, but Pittsburgh did enough to hold off New England for a victory. The Patriots netted just 213 yards of offense and the pass rush found its way to Brady three times. LaMarr Woodley picked up two of those sacks before leaving with an injury. The third, a sack-fumble by Brett Keisel, turned into a safety and sealed the win.

Ryan Clark and Larry Foote tied for the team lead in tackles with eight apiece.

Special Teams
Shaun Suisham hit field goals of 21, 23, and 33 yards, but missed a 43-yarder in the fourth quarter. Daniel Sepulveda didn’t attempt a punt until the fourth quarter, and netted only 33 yards on that attempt. Ryan Mundy (three total tackles), Will Allen (two), and Arnaz Battle (two) led the charge on the coverage units.

Antonio Brown averaged 27.0 yards on three kick returns, and 6.0 yards on two punt returns.

Game Ball
Outside of his interception, Big Ben was outstanding and was the driving force behind the victory. Silver medals to the defensive guys who held one of the league’s best offenses to just over 200 yards.

Up Next
Pittsburgh will stick at Heinz Field for its second primetime contest of the season, an 8:20 start on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. They’ll play host in a big-time matchup, and will look to even their series with the Baltimore Ravens (5-2), who slammed the Steelers in the season opener. 

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