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Week 15 Patriots vs Steelers game report: Pittsburgh defeats New England with 17-10 final score

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New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The (9-4) New England Patriots are on the road against the (7-5-1) Pittsburgh Steelers and they need a victory in order to keep pace with the Houston Texans for one of the AFC’s first round byes.

Can the Patriots rebound from their last-second loss to the Miami Dolphins? Here’s everything you need to know for this game!

Game Details

Date: Sunday, December 16, 2018

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET

Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh PA

SB Nation affiliate: Behind the Steel Curtain

TV: CBS, with Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Tony Romo (color commentary) and Tracy Wolfson (sideline):

Pregame Show

Afternoon Game Patriots Rooting Guide

4:05 PM ET

Seahawks at 49ers: The Patriots want the Seahawks to win to keep the 49ers ahead of the Bills and Jets in the draft order.

Live Updates


Patriots and Steelers have changed a lot since their last meeting.

Steelers know they have to defend Rob Gronkowski.

LB Elandon Roberts is dealing with a thigh injury.

Inactives: DT Danny Shelton a healthy scratch for the third-straight week.

PLAYOFFS: The Miami Dolphins lost to the Minnesota Vikings, so a Patriots victory over the Steelers would clinch a 10th-straight AFC East title for New England.

Steelers won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball to start the game.


The Steelers elected to receive the opening kickoff and made the most of their opportunity. Pittsburgh led a long 11-play, 75-yard drive that ate up 6:20 of clock as they rode jack-of-all-trades Jaylen Samuels for 49 yards from scrimmage to get into the red zone, before Ben Roethlisberger found Vance McDonald for a 5-yard touchdown with Patrick Chung in coverage. The Steelers are up 7-0.

That’s a heck of a way to respond. Tom Brady completed all three of his passes, with the final pass on third-and-1 going 63 yards to Chris Hogan for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.

The New England defense showed up on this next drive. After allowing Samuels to pick up another long first down run, Kyle Van Noy and Jonathan Jones each recorded a sack and forced the Steelers to punt, setting up the Patriots offense on their own 22-yard line.

Tom Brady has been excellent so far, but a pair of drops by Julian Edelman and James White ended the New England drive in Steelers territory by midfield. Ryan Allen kicked an incredible punt to stick Pittsburgh on their own 8-yard line.

JuJu Smith-Schuster made a circus catch around J.C. Jackson- who had been in fantastic coverage- to get away from the goal line and a second catch for 9 yards to set the Steelers up with a second-and-1 from the Steelers 35-yard line as we go to the second quarter.


The officials were, ahem, kind to the Steelers on this drive. After a friendly ball placement for a first down, they called a very questionable defensive pass interference call against Jonathan Jones to put Pittsburgh in the red zone before Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown for a 17-yard touchdown with Jason McCourty in coverage. Pittsburgh is up 14-7.

Roethlisberger was incomplete on the first play of the drive, but completed his next 7 passes (not including the 26-yard defensive pass interference play) for 70 yards. The Steelers scored on the back of their running game and now through the air. The big concern is that Roethlisberger was taking the easy passes- something he’s struggled to do against the Patriots defense in the past- which is the recipe to beat the Patriots defense (think: Chiefs or Eagles offensive strategies). This is worth monitoring.

Sony Michel is picking up yards on the ground, but an offensive holding call against Trent Brown called back a 25-yard gain to set up a second-and-17 from the Patriots 34-yard line. Brady found James Develin for 7 yards, but was unable to convert on third down and the Patriots had to punt back to Pittsburgh. These penalties on Michel’s big gains need to stop. A miraculous punt by Ryan Allen landed on the goal line and Jonathan Jones and Rex Burkhead had a hand in keeping the ball out of the end zone and forcing the Steelers to start from their own 1 yard line.

Stevan Ridley picked up 12 yards on first down to get away from the goal, Roethlisberger found Brown for 24 yards, and Samuels picked up 17 yards to get into Patriots territory, but Duron Harmon intercepted Roethlisberger to give the ball back to Tom Brady and company.

Brady and the offense went three-and-out and Allen punted back to the Steelers. Yawn.

The New England defense held strong as J.C. Jackson continued his admirable performance in coverage of Smith-Schuster. The Steelers punted back to the Patriots, setting up New England on their own 19-yard line with 3 minutes left in the half for a chance for a double-whammy.

Brady found Cordarrelle Patterson for a crucial third down conversion after the two-minute warning, but a false start on Marcus Cannon set the Patriots back and they were unable to score. The Patriots trail the Steelers 14-7.

This has been a pretty weak performance by the Patriots. The offense is 1 of 5 on third down. New England gained 63 yards on the blown coverage touchdown by Hogan and only 104 yards on the other 21 plays. There seems to be no cohesion on offense and Patterson leads the team with 3 receptions and is second with 20 receiving yards. James Develin has 2 catches for 18 yards.

Rob Gronkowski is uninvolved, again. Julian Edelman has 8 yards on 4 targets. James White has just 1 catch on 3 targets for 6 yards. Josh Gordon has just one target, from very early in the game.

On defense, the Steelers running backs have 82 rushing yards on 8 carries and we’ve reached a point that it’s not a surprise the run defense is playing so poorly over the past three games with Danny Shelton as a healthy scratch in each showing. This is echoes of benching Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl- it makes no sense from a schematic stand point.

Antonio Brown has 4 catches for 49 yards and a touchdown with Jason McCourty in coverage. Ben Roethlisberger has completed 17 of 23 (73.9%) for 150 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception.

Patriots undrafted rookie CB J.C. Jackson deserves a round of applause for his performance holding JuJu Smith-Schuster to 39 receiving yards on 8 targets, but the defense has otherwise been inconsistent. It’s never good to allow a 92-yard touchdown drive.

Props to Ryan Allen for his punting work. A big wag of the finger to almost everyone else. Seven points is really disappointing.


Patriots received the ball to start the second half and Sony Michel gained 17 yards on the first three carries plays, but Josh Gordon dropped the third down pass and the Patriots had to punt back to the Steelers. Not a good start to the half.

Roethlisberger found James Washington for 32 yards up the sideline over Jason McCourty (who has had a rough few weeks) and then again for 24 yards to get into the red zone. Samuels picked up 14 yards around the left end to get to the Patriots 4-yard line, but great pressure by Lawrence Guy drew an intentional grounding penalty to set up a third-and-14. Vance McDonald caught the third down pass out of bounds and Chris Bowswell kicked the field goal wide right as the Patriots were fortunate to keep the score 14-7.

The Patriots commit consecutive pre-snap penalties to start the drive with a first-and-20 and a big sack by T.J. Watt on second down set up a big third down. Chris Hogan drew a defensive pass interference call to get a fresh set of downs by midfield. Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel ran the ball into the red zone, but the offense was unable to convert on a third down pass to Edelman (a mere 22 yards on 6 targets) and the Patriots settled for a 33-yard field goal to cut the Steelers lead to 14-10 with 17 seconds left in the quarter. New England is a horrific 1 of 7 on third down this game.

The Steelers gained six yards to set up second-and-4 to end the quarter.


Samuels gained 15 yards to start the final quarter and then picked up 4 on the next play to get to midfield. Roethlisberger threw incomplete to Washington with both McCourty brothers in coverage to set up third-and-6. Stephon Gilmore knocked the ball away from Antonio Brown and into the hands of Duron Harmon for his second interception of the game to get the ball back to the Patriots offense on the 41-yard line.

Brady found Rob Gronkowski on the play action for his first reception of the day to get to the Steelers 40-yard line and then Edelman on another play action to get to the 15-yard line. Gronkowski picked up a big first down, bowling over two defenders, to get to the Steelers 5-yard line. Marcus Cannon was flagged for an offensive holding call and then Tom Brady threw a dumb (dumb, dumb, dumb) off-balance interception to Joe Haden, ending a great chance to score. What a waste.

The Steelers wanted to burn as much clock as possible and they converted a big third-and-7 and third-and-9 before New England started using time outs. Samuels then picked up 15 yards and Malcom Brown was flagged for holding on the same play, putting the Steelers in theoretical field goal range. Boswell connected on the 48-yard field goal to extend their lead to 7. This doesn’t change the Patriots’ objective on their final drive- New England needed to score a touchdown regardless.

Brady found Julian Edelman for 34 yards to flip the field and moved into the red zone, but a holding call against Shaq Mason- their 14th penalty of the day- pushed the Patriots back and Tom Brady threw incomplete passes to finish the game, including a fourth down pass that was swatted down in the end zone. The Steelers won 17-10.

This was a bad game by the Patriots. This is a team that will have to reboot itself in the offseason because they were bad everywhere you want to look. Ten points from Tom Brady and company is inexcusable, especially with a red zone turnover. Rob Gronkowski is done and no one has been able to step up in his place on a consistent basis.

The run defense was atrocious for the third-straight week (and the coaching staff deserves major blame for Danny Shelton being a healthy scratch in each outing). The secondary was good, but that means nothing if the defensive front seven is playing terribly.

There are two more weeks in the regular season. The Patriots are the third seed in the AFC. They won’t finish 12-4 or better for the first time since 2009. They’re likely to miss a first round bye for the first time since 2009. This team has no identity.

Turn the page.

Use this as the open thread for discussion!

Pats Pulpit Live Postgame Show: Week 15

Welcome to the Pats Pulpit Live Postgame Show! After a tough loss on the road in Pittsburgh, host Brian Phillips breaks down what we just witnessed.

Posted by Pats Pulpit: For New England Patriots News on Sunday, December 16, 2018