Steelers vs. Lions score: Detroit avoids 0-9 start by salvaging a tie in Pittsburgh

The Lions didn't win, but they avoided their ninth consecutive loss after forcing a 16-16 tie with the Steelers in Pittsburgh. After squandering their own chance to win the game earlier in overtime, the Lions salvaged a tie when Detroit safety Will Harris forced a fumble from Pat Freiermuth with Pittsburgh trying to set up a game-winning field goal attempt. The game clock expired on Jared Goff's 22-yard completion to Kalif Raymond. 

Both teams had chances to win the game in the extra session. On their first drive of overtime, the Steelers appeared to be on their way to a win when Mason Rudolph -- starting in place of Ben Roethlisberger due to Big Ben's positive COVID-19 test -- hit Diontae Johnson for a 39-yard completion. But Mark Gilbert -- formerly of the Steelers -- managed to jar the ball loose while giving the Lions the ball at Pittsburgh's 45-yard line. The Lions got into field goal range before Ryan Santoso hooked his 48-yard, game-winning attempt. 

Both teams punted on their ensuing possessions before Rudolph's 10-yard completion to Johnson got the Steelers to the Lions' 39-yard-line. With 15 seconds remaining, Harris ended any thoughts of a Steelers win by forcing a Freiermuth fumble.

The Steelers started fast, as Rudolph capped off the game's first drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to college teammate James Washington. Pittsburgh's offense stalled after that, however, with two punts and an interception on its next three drives. One of Pittsburgh's punts was returned 48 yards by Raymond. Raymond's return set up Lions rookie running back Jermar Johnson's 28-yard touchdown run. The teams then exchanged field goals to go into halftime tied at 10. 

Detroit took its first lead on Godwin Igwebuike's 42-yard touchdown run to open the second half. Pittsburgh's offense responded with a pair of Boswell field goals that included a 51-yard boot less than four minutes into the fourth quarter. The two teams exchanged punts for the remainder of the quarter before Rudolph knelt on the pigskin on the final play of regulation. 

Let's take a closer look at the NFL's first tie of the 2021 season.  

How the Lions avoided 0-9 

With Dan Campbell calling the plays, the Lions were determined to win the game using their running game. It was also clear that the Lions were going to try to win the field position game while relying on their defense to make enough stops against the Rudolph-led Pittsburgh offense.  

The game plan created some head-scratching plays that included several running plays on third-and-long. But the plan nearly resulted in the Lions' first win. The Lions ran for a whopping 229 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries. Swift ran for 130 yards on 33 carries to record his second career 100-yard game and his first since Week 5 of the 2020 season.  

Including overtime, the Lions allowed only six points during the game's final 44 minutes. The Lions made two big red zone stands in the red zone against an offense that came into the game with the league's fourth-best red zone offense.  

Why Steelers' four-game winning streak ended

The Steelers squandered a chance to take sole possession for first place in the AFC North for the first time this season. They also squandered two chances to win the game on fumbles by Johnson and Freiermuth in overtime. 

After scoring on their opening drive, the Steelers never found the end zone again. Questionable play calling was one of the reasons Pittsburgh had to settle for two Boswell field goals on their next two trips inside Detroit's 20-yard line. A holding penalty on Dan Moore wiped out a Harris touchdown run on Pittsburgh's second trip inside the red zone. Their third trip ended with three straight incomplete passes from Rudolph, who struggled with his accuracy all day.  

Pittsburgh's play-calling was suspect. With a backup quarterback playing in rainy conditions, the Steelers threw the ball 50 times. The Steelers called 19 fewer running plays despite having significantly more success on the ground (145 yards on 31 carries) then in the air (242 yards on 30 of 50 passing).  

The Steelers' defense, which played without T.J. Watt for most of the second half, had no answer for the Lions' rushing attack during the game's first 33 minutes. But after allowing 199 yards on the Lions' first 21 carries, Pittsburgh's defense gave up just 30 yards on Detroit's final 18 carries. Part of that success was due to the absence of Jefferson, who left the game after his first half touchdown run with an injury. And while the unit played better during the second half, the Steelers' defense was unable to force a turnover for the first time since Week 2.  

Turning point 

The game's first turning point took place at the end of the first quarter. After having little success on their first first three drives, the Lions took advantage of a short field that was created by Raymond's long punt return. On the second play of the Lions' fourth possession, Jefferson went untouched through the hole before fighting through Minkah Fitzpatrick's tackle attempt. The Lions would score on their next two drives to take a 16-10 lead. 

Play of the game 

It's a tie between Gilbert's forced fumble of Johnson and Harris' forced fumble of Freiermuth. Gilbert, an undrafted rookie who was claimed off of waivers by the Lions after Pittsburgh released him in October, initially gave up the big completion to Johnson. Gilbert stayed with the play, however, and was able to knock the ball free from Johnson to stop a potential game-winning score. 

Flower's forced fumble of Freiermuth prevented the the Steelers from attempting a last-second field goal attempt from Boswell, who is 15 of 18 in his career on field goal attempts beyond 50 yards. 

Stats and stuff 

Sunday was the NFL's first tie game since the Bengals and Eagles played to a 23-23 tie in Week 3 of the 2020 season. Sunday was the Lions' first overtime game since 2019. It was the second overtime game this season for the Steelers, who defeated the Seahawks in overtime back in Week 6. The tie was the Lions' sixth since the AFL-NFL merger. It was the Steelers' fourth tie since the 1970 merger. 

Goff, who finished with just 114 yards passing, had more passing yards in overtime than he did during regulation. He threw for 54 yards on 11 of 20 passing during the game's first 60 minutes. He threw for 60 yards on 3 of 5 passing in overtime. Conversely, the Steelers received another big game from Harris, who recorded his second 100-yard rushing game of the season. 

Quotable 

"Not much. We found out last night. I would say for the most part, it didn't change that much. We knew we had to stop Najee Harris. That's what everything is going to run through." -- Campbell on whether the Lions' defensive game plan changed after learning that Roethlisberger would miss Sunday's game after testing positive for COVID-19. 

"Acknowledged the fight, but didn't congratulate them for it. Quite frankly, that's going to be required when we're you're trying to do and be what we're trying to do and be. ... Just too sloppy to win. Core fundamental things. We didn't tackle well enough throughout the game defensively. And then in the most critical moments, we didn't maintain possession of the ball on offense." -- Tomlin's opening assessment of his team's first tie since Week 1 of the 2018 season. 

What's next 

The Lions will head to Cleveland, where the Browns will surely be looking to bounce back after getting trounced 45-7 Sunday in New England. For the first time, the Steelers will face second-year quarterback Justin Herbert when Pittsburgh faces the Chargers in Los Angeles next Sunday night. 

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PIT -6, o40.5
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PIT -6, O/U 40.5

Season Leaders

passing
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J. Goff3245 YD, 19 TDS, 8 INTS
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J. Goff3245 YD, 19 TDS, 8 INTS
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B. Roethlisberger3740 YD, 22 TDS, 10 INTS
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B. Roethlisberger3740 YD, 22 TDS, 10 INTS
rushing
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D. Swift151 ATT, 617 YD, 5 TDS
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D. Swift151 ATT, 617 YD, 5 TDS
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N. Harris307 ATT, 1200 YD, 7 TDS
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N. Harris307 ATT, 1200 YD, 7 TDS
receiving
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A. St. Brown90 REC, 912 YD, 5 TDS
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A. St. Brown90 REC, 912 YD, 5 TDS
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D. Johnson107 REC, 1161 YD, 8 TDS
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D. Johnson107 REC, 1161 YD, 8 TDS
Live updates
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@steelers via Twitter
November 14, 2021, 9:59 PM
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Rudolph wisely avoids the rush and hits Najee Harris for a first down just past midfield. Steelers only need about 12 yards to get into Boswell's range. 

November 14, 2021, 9:38 PM
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Not sure why the Lions called timeout there. 

November 14, 2021, 9:33 PM
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Tre Norwood almost comes down with the pick at midfield but can't hang on. Barring a TO here the game at worst will be a tie for both teams. 

November 14, 2021, 9:31 PM
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High snap from Kendrick Green -- his second of the game -- leads to a Steelers punt. This game looks to be headed towards a tie. 

November 14, 2021, 9:27 PM
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Santoso whiffs on the field goal attempt. Not sure what happened there. Steelers have four minutes and just need a field goal. 

November 14, 2021, 9:24 PM
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@steelers via Twitter
November 14, 2021, 9:22 PM
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Great forced fumble by Gilbert on that deep completion to Dointae Johnson. Minkah gets the pick but the Steelers called for holding. Lions have the ball at midfield and only need a FG to win. 

November 14, 2021, 9:17 PM
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@Lions via Twitter
November 14, 2021, 9:15 PM
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@Lions via Twitter
November 14, 2021, 9:10 PM
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Lions in their first OT since 2019. Steelers 1-0 in OT play this season. 

November 14, 2021, 9:10 PM
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Lions haven't had much success through the air but would think that Campbell may let Goff open things up more in OT after the Steelers sold out to stop the run during the last several possessions. Lions had just 20 yards on their final 13 carries of regulation. 

November 14, 2021, 9:09 PM
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@Lions via Twitter
November 14, 2021, 8:54 PM
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Big sack by Heyward and Highsmith, as Pittsburgh's defense has allowed four consecutive punts after the 42-yard TD run. 

November 14, 2021, 8:53 PM
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Steelers misfire on third down as Rudolph throws hard and Johnson unable to make the one-handed snag. Mason should have taken something off of that throw. Lions take over on their own 15-yard-line with 4:27 left. Lions have pretty much done nothing threw the air to this point. And their running game has produced just 11 yards on their last 11 attempts. 

November 14, 2021, 8:46 PM
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