The Steelers offense sputtered and stalled in the first half against the Dallas Cowboys and Ben Roethlisberger left the game early with a left knee injury.
But in the second half, Roethlisberger got back into the action and got his team back into the game, leading the Steelers to a three second-half scoring drives, including the game-winning touchdown to Eric Ebron with under three minutes to play in what became a 24-19 Pittsburgh victory.
The Cowboys got the ball back with two more chances to regain the lead, but Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt combined to sack Dallas quarterback Garrett Gilbert on fourth down to stop the first effort and Minkah Fitzpatrick knocked down the final heave for the second weak in a row.
The Steelers fell into a quick early hole, ceding 13 consecutive points to Dallas to start the game while the Pittsburgh had drives of nine plays for a punt, three plays and a punt and seven plays and a turnover on downs.
With the Steelers down two scores, Roethlisberger was injured on the Steelers’ penultimate drive of the first half, but stayed in the game and directed the team offense to pay dirt, connecting with James Washington for a 17-yard score to put the Steelers on the scoreboard.
After Roethlisberger’s injury, the Steelers got the ball back on the first of two Fitzpatrick turnovers and Chris Boswell set a team record with a 59-yard end-of-half field goal.
In the second half, Roethlisberger shook off the pain of the injury and the slow start. After a pair of Dallas field goals made the 19-9 Cowboys, Roethlisberger found JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 31-yard catch-and-run score.
Another Boswell field goal drew the Steelers to within one, setting up the final scoring drive, that carried the team 64 yards over six plays in just 1:57.
Roethlisberger finished 29 of 42 for 306 yards and three touchdowns. Smith-Schuster was his most prolific receiver, grabbing six catches for 93 yards. Diontae Johnson caught six for 77, including a pivotal long run down the left side to set up the Ebron score. Rookie Chase Claypool had eight catches os 13 targets for 69 yards.
The Steelers overcame several special teams miscues, including allowing two long returns that led to Dallas field goals, missing one extra point and getting another blocked.
With the win, the Steelers improved to 8-0, which is the best start to a season in franchise history. The Steelers wrapped their season-long three-game road swing with three straight one-score victories over the Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys.
Mike Tomlin’s ‘MAC Guys’ Get the Last Laugh
In discussing his team’s Week 11 game with the under-performing Jacksonville Jaguars, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin chose to use a college football comparison.
“We’re not a Big 10 team playing a MAC team,” Tomlin said last week. “Every time we step into a stadium, we are playing professionals, players and coaches.”
The message was a clear one to not overlook the moribund Jaguars. That mission was accomplished, as the Steelers coasted to a 27-3 victory in Jacksonville on Sunday.
But he may want to pick a different doormat for his analogy the next time. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, a MAC alum from Miami University, said he was going to make a response as soon he figured out which conference William & Mary — Tomlin’s alma mater — plays in.
Roethlisberger is far from the only MAC alum on the Steelers. Star wide receiver Diontae Johnson went to Toledo, as did backup linebackers Ola Adeniyi and Jayrone Elliott. Right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor and inside linebacker Robert Spillane are West Michigan grads. Injured linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III went to Akron and practice squad wide receiver Anthony Johnson is a Buffalo alum, giving the Steelers eight former MAC members.
And those guys came up big in the win. Roethlisberger threw for two touchdowns, Johnson had over 100 yards receiving, Okorafor was part of a line that helped James Conner to 6.8 yards per carry and kept Roethlisberger from being sacked and Spillane had four tackles.
After Sunday’s win, some of the Steelers’ MAC graduates got the last laugh, with Roethlisberger, Adeniyi, Johnson, Okorafor and Spillane getting Tomlin to pose with a photo.
“MAC guys” captioned Robert Spillane on Instagram, with laughing emojis.
Maybe next time, Tomlin should pick on the Sun Belt.
From the Steelers Locker Room: Minkah Fitzpatrick on Being Focused Each Week, Not Looking Ahead
Minkah Fitzpatrick made it clear to the media, including Steelers Now, that his team made sure to not overlook the Jaguars and is only focused on each individual week, not the possibility of going 16-0.
Mike Tomlin Downplays JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Injury
Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster suffered a minor ailment in the Steelers’ 27-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed after the game.
Tomlin characterized Smith-Schuster’s injury as part of the “minor bumps and bruises associated with play.” Smith-Schuster left the game in the fourth quarter with the Steelers leading by multiple scores.
Tomlin said that he didn’t think the injury was anything major, but acknowledge that “it could be a factor for him” when dealing with a short week of preparation upcoming. The Steelers are set to host the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night.
Smith-Schuster caught four passes for 19 yards in the game before he left with the injury. Ray-Ray McCloud replaced him in the top group of receivers.