As expected, the Patriots and Steelers played a smashmouth game in Pittsburgh on Sunday. When the dust settled, it was the Patriots coming out on top 17-14 to earn their first win of the year.
In a game where both defenses were put in tough spots throughout the afternoon, the Patriots’ unit came out on top. They held the Steelers to 243 total yards and 4.2 yards per play. Meanwhile, the Patriots’ offense totaled 376 yards, at 5.7 yards per play.
A three-and-out by the Patriots defense started the game, but the Steelers flipped the field with a massive punt that was fielded poorly by Myles Bryant resulting in a touchback. Like last week, the Patriots offense moved the ball well on its first drive, moving the ball 71 yards in 13 plays. While they didn’t turn the ball over, they did stall in the red zone, finishing the drive with a Nick Folk field goal.
In response the Steelers moved the ball into Patriots territory, which included narrowly converting a 3rd & short. On the next play though, linebacker Mack Wilson deflected a pass over the middle up in the air, which was then picked off by Jalen Mills for the Patriots’ first defensive turnover of the year.
It only took a few plays for the Patriots to give the ball right back, when Mac Jones was intercepted by Minkah Fitzpatrick throwing deep over the middle to DeVante Parker. That closed the first quarter with the Patriots up 3-0.
The ensuing drive saw the Steelers convert a 3rd & 17, and work their way into the red zone. A Jahlani Tavai sack on third down finally got the Patriots’ defense off the field, but the Steelers were able to tie the game at 3-3 with a Chris Boswell field goal.
On their next drive the Patriots ended up moving backwards, between an intentional grounding penalty on Jones and holding penalty on Isaiah Wynn. Pittsburgh would punt the ball right back, giving the Patriots a two-minute drill. After stumbling a bit to start, Jones connected with Nelson Agholor deep for the Patriots’ most explosive play of the season, a 44-yard touchdown that saw Agholor rip the ball away from a defender. That play had the Patriots up 10-3 at the half.
New England got the ball to open the second half, but couldn’t finish a double-score when Nick Folk missed a 52-yard field goal. The Steelers responded with a 52-yard field goal from Chris Boswell, which was forced in part by two strong open field tackles from safety Jabrill Peppers. That kick made the game 10-6.
That’s when the Patriots really started getting some breaks. Jones should have been intercepted on a second down, but Cameron Sutton dropped a ball thrown right to him. The Patriots still ended up punting, but former Patriot Gunner Olszewski muffed the punt, and Brenden Schooler recovered, which combined with a Pittsburgh penalty set the Patriots up at the Steelers’ 7-yard line. Three plays later, Damien Harris made the Steelers pay for those mistakes by punching the ball in from two yards out to put the Patriots up 17-6.
The third quarter closed with the Steelers driving the ball deep into Patriots territory. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Mitchell Trubisky connected with tight end Pat Freiermuth for an eight-yard touchdown, then converted a two-point play to make it a 17-14 game.
Jake Bailey finished the next Patriots’ drive with a punt, pinning the Steelers inside the 20 yard line. But the Patriots defense quickly flipped the field forcing a three-and-out. They couldn’t take advantage though, and had a three-and-out right back, only to have the Steelers punt the ball back again. This time, they didn’t give the ball back, running out the final 6:33 of the game for the win.
Jones finished the game 21-for-35 for 252 yards with a touchdown and interception. Nelson Agholor was his top receiver, with six catches for 110 yards and the score. Agholor was the first Patriots receiver to put up over 100 yards receiving in a game since Jakobi Meyers did so late in the 2020 season. Meyers almost joined Agholor on Sunday, with nine catches for 95 yards.
Harris was the Patriots’ leading rusher, with 71 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. Rhamondre Stevenson backed him up with nine carries for 47 yards.
On defense, Myles Bryant led the team with eight tackles. Mills has six tackles and the interception. Tavai, Matthew Judon, and Christian Barmore all recorded sacks.
Next up for the Patriots is their home opener, against the Baltimore Ravens. That game kicks off at 1:00 p.m. next Sunday, with pregame coverage beginning at 10:00 on 98.5 The Sports Hub and the Patriots Radio Network.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarthor via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.