What it means: The Steelers finally bagged a signature win, and they did it after a disastrous second quarter had pushed their season to the brink and caused more than a few fans to leave Heinz Field early. They improved to 4-6 after blowing a 14-point lead and then rallying from a seven-point halftime deficit. With winnable games at Cleveland and Baltimore next up on the schedule, the Steelers are still in the AFC North race as well as the wild-card hunt. There have been a lot of big wins in the Mike Tomlin era. This has to rank near the top of the list.
Stock watch: The defense pitched a second-half shutout after Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson toyed with it in the second quarter. And the Steelers scored a season-high 37 points because of the brilliance of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Roethlisberger threw for 367 yards and four touchdowns, and he led the Steelers to a win after they trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter for the 32nd time of his career, including the postseason. The oft-criticized Haley called a masterful game; had their execution near the end zone been a little better, the Steelers would have scored a few more touchdowns.
Missed opportunities: The Steelers’ red zone struggles reached a new and almost comical low. The Steelers had to settle for field goals three times after driving inside the Lions’ 15-yard line, and they should have had touchdowns all three times, including late in the third quarter. The Steelers had a first down at the Lions’ 1-yard line, but they couldn’t punch in what would have been a game-tying touchdown. Le’Veon Bell got stuffed twice, and those runs sandwiched Roethlisberger overthrowing a wide-open David Paulson after a perfect play call by Haley.
Déjà vu all over again: It was hard to imagine the Steelers having as bad a quarter then they did earlier this month in New England when the Patriots scored four touchdowns in the final 15 minutes to blow open what had been a tie game. But the defense suffered another epic collapse, and this one allowed the Lions to score 27 points in the second quarter while gaining 280 yards. Detroit’s outburst came despite a lost fumble early in the second quarter and a goal-line stand made at the end of the half by the Steelers. The Lions’ three touchdown drives came on a total of 11 plays.
Next up: The Steelers travel to Cleveland next Sunday. The Browns dropped to 4-6 after blowing an early 13-point lead and getting routed 41-20 in Cincinnati. The Steelers lost in Cleveland last season after losing five fumbles and committing a ghastly eight turnovers.