Though it wasn’t as dramatic as a last-minute touchdown, Chris Boswell’s game winner in overtime on Sunday night was just as important. The kicker capped the Steelers’ 19-16 victory over their AFC North rivals from Cincinnati Bengals with a 45 yard field goal, helping Pittsburgh remain undefeated this season and claim first place in the division.
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t easy to play against.
The 49ers’ 29-27 victory against the Chicago Bears on Monday night was no exception. In the fourth quarter, the Steelers’ two-score advantage vanished, despite being up 14 points twice. With 26 seconds remaining on the clock, Chris Boswell kicked a 40-yard field goal to put the Steelers back on front for good. He had recovered from a concussion suffered a week before.
Boswell, according to defensive lineman Cam Heyward, is a serial murderer. “In certain cases, he’s too calm, and I like Bos’ manner. He never considers a situation to be too large for him.”
Boswell is 12 of 15 at Heinz Range on field goals of at least 50 yards, and his 54-yarder earlier in the fourth quarter was the second-longest at the stadium, behind only Boswell’s 56-yarder earlier this season.
“I know everyone in Baltimore is talking about the man,” Heyward added. “He’s a tremendous kicker, but Bos is an even better kicker. We mock him all the time, they’re 1A and 1B, and Bos has yet to establish he’s 1B. There are still a lot of games to be played, but I can’t say enough about Bos’s style of play.”
The Steelers (5-3) have never blown a 14-point fourth-quarter lead at home, but they came dangerously close after allowing three fourth-quarter touchdowns: Darnell Mooney’s 15-yard touchdown, Ray-Ray McCloud’s fumbled punt return that turned into a scoop-and-score by Chicago’s DeAndre Houston-Carson, and rookie quarterback Justin Fields’ 16-yard pass to Mooney.
“”I am proud of the players, the way they battled all the way to the finish,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, “but we made it a bit tighter and more stressful than we needed to.” Football is played in groups.”
The Steelers were a huge favorite over the Bears into Monday night’s game, and they came out on top. However, it was far from a dominating effort against a weaker opponent. They have one more easy game coming up, a Sunday afternoon matchup at home against the hapless Detroit Lions, before facing difficult AFC opponents.
The Los Angeles Chargers are in town. The Bengals of Cincinnati. In a game against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Steelers must win the easy games, such as those against rookie quarterbacks and rebuilding clubs, to keep their postseason aspirations alive. They were on the verge of not doing it on Monday night.
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Roethlisberger stated, “We’re finding ways to win the game.” “You know, I’m playing okay, but not spectacular. But, in terms of offense, we’re doing quite well right now.”
In two words, describe the game: Meltdown. When one word would serve, why use two? In the fourth quarter, the Steelers had a two-score lead before surrendering three touchdowns.
Buy Pat Freiermuth stock today, on the strength of a breakthrough performance. Freiermuth added two touchdown receptions against the Bears to his fourth-down score against Cleveland, including an outstanding combated grab in the end zone late in the third quarter. He was targeted a team-high six times by Roethlisberger, and he ended with five receptions for 43 yards.
Coach Mike Tomlin described Freiermuth as a “good combat catch guy.” “In those times, he delivers, and it’s just fun to see him evolve and tell his story in that manner.”
After a two-touchdown preseason game against the Lions, the rookie tight end remained rather quiet in the early portion of the regular season. However, after JuJu Smith-Schuster was injured, Freiermuth’s role in the game plan grew significantly. Due to the injury to Eric Ebron, Freiermuth has been receiving the majority of tight end snaps and targets. Even if Ebron returns to health, Freiermuth’s rise is likely to continue as he establishes a connection with Roethlisberger and proves he’s a trustworthy target.
Turnovers haven’t come easily for this Steelers defense, but defensive lineman Cam Heyward caught a Fields pass just outside the line of scrimmage in the first half for the team’s third interception of the season.
“I merely told [Tomlin], ‘I’ve got hands,’” says the narrator. With a chuckle, Heyward said. “Perhaps this is the time to run the fake field goals to me.”
And it wasn’t just that Heyward intercepted Fields; the offense took advantage of the opportunity and scored a touchdown on the next possession for the first time all season. Roethlisberger and the offense had to work hard on nine plays to cover 36 yards in 3 minutes and 41 seconds, but they were rewarded with a touchdown pass to Freiermuth.
Pivotal play II: The Steelers’ special teams were on a roller coaster Monday night, and it reached a point of no return halfway through the fourth quarter when McCloud botched a punt, which Chicago recovered and returned 25 yards for a score.
“In the kicking game, you can’t turn the ball over and give away points,” Tomlin stated. “If you do that, there’s a good chance you’ll lose, even if you’re in a close game. We must keep the ball in our possession. In the kicking game, we can’t afford to give up any points. You’d best knuckle up when you do. That is exactly what they did.”
With six and a half minutes remaining, the Bears had closed the gap to three points. Soon after, the Bears maintained their momentum, scoring a 16-yard touchdown to grab their first lead of the game.
Eye-popping NextGen stat: At halftime, both Roethlisberger and Fields had 63 passing yards, but Fields was averaging 15.8 air yards per attempt while Roethlisberger was averaging 3.2. In the second half, Roethlisberger stretched it out a little further with a 42-yard heave to James Washington that was underthrown but got there. Roethlisberger had a right shoulder injury on Friday, which was initially reported on the practice report. Tomlin said that they would manage the injury, which seemed to be mostly via short throws in the flat and planned runs for the wide receivers. Roethlisberger threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns on 21 of 30 passing attempts with no interceptions. It was the first time in Roethlisberger’s career that he has won four straight games without throwing an interception.