The Pittsburgh Steelers pulled out all the stops to try to change their luck against the New England Patriots and save their season.
They wore Color Rush uniforms, eschewed pregame introductions and didn’t defer after winning the coin toss.
Perhaps inspired by these cosmetic changes, the Steelers reverse their fortunes against their biggest AFC road block.
Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes to offset a pair of interceptions, rookie Jaylen Samuels surpassed 100 yards rushing, the defense rose to the occasion after an early gaffe, and the Steelers pulled out a 17-10 victory on Sunday at Heinz Field.
The win was the first in four games for the Steelers (8-5-1) and kept them one-half game ahead of the Baltimore Ravens (8-6) in the AFC North with two games remaining.
The Patriots (9-5) lost for the second game in a row and for the first time since 2011 to the Steelers. New England had a five-game winning streak against the Steelers since then, counting postseason.
The Steelers took the field knowing a loss would knock them outside the playoff picture. Baltimore had beaten Tampa Bay, and wild-card hopefuls Tennessee and Indianapolis also improved to 8-6 with wins.
Roethlisberger was 22 of 34 for 235 yards, and Samuels gained a career-high 142 yards rushing on 19 carries as the Steelers often controlled the tempo.
Aside from giving up a 63-yard Tom Brady touchdown pass to Chris Hogan, the Steelers kept the Patriots out of the end zone. New England was 0 for 3 with three points on drives inside the red zone, with Joe Haden’s interception with 7 minutes, 43 seconds remaining serving as a turning point until Morgan Burnett batted down a last-gasp pass into the end zone with 14 seconds left.
After Haden’s interception at the Patriots 4, the Steelers picked up five first downs, and Chris Boswell overcame an earlier miss to make a 48-yard field goal with 2:30 remaining for a 17-10 lead.
Brady used a 34-yard pass to Julian Edelman to get the Patriots into Steelers territory inside the final two minutes. On fourth-and-15 from the Steelers 21, Brady threw for the end zone toward Edelman, but Burnett batted down the ball.
The usually composed Patriots were hurt by 14 penalties for 106 yards. Brady was 25 of 36 for 279 yards.
Roethlisberger was intercepted twice by Duron Harmon — once in each half.
The second one happened early in the fourth quarter when he caught a ball that deflected off Antonio Brown at the Patriots 41.
Trailing 14-10, the Patriots were driving for the potential go-ahead score when Joe Haden leaped above two receivers and intercepted a pass at the Steelers 4 with 7:43 left. It was the first interception for the Steelers in five games and just their seventh of the season.
Roethlisberger threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Vance McDonald on the Steelers’ first drive and a 17-yarder to Brown on the third for a 14-7 halftime lead.
The Steelers ran 11 plays on their opening 75-yard drive that consumed 6:20. The second touchdown drive eclipsed 92 yards on eight plays and lasted 4:17.
Roethlisberger completed passes to eight players in the half, and Samuels had 70 yards rushing on seven carries.
Artie Burns started at cornerback for the first time in two months, and his stay on the field lasted three plays. He was replaced by Coty Sensabaugh after a blown coverage left three defenders on wide receiver Josh Gordon. This left Hogan open to complete a 63-yard catch-and-run for a score.
Aside from that mistake, the Steelers kept Brady in check for the rest of the first half, giving up 104 yards and five first downs. They never got the ball beyond the Steelers 46.
James Washington had two catches for 56 yards on the Steelers’ first drive of the second half. The Steelers had a first-and-goal from the 4 but came away empty. Roethlisberger was called for intentional grounding on a second-down pass, and McDonald didn’t get his feet in bounds on a potential touchdown catch.
Boswell missed his seventh field goal of the season when he pushed his 32-yard attempt wide right.
The Patriots responded with their first extended drive of the game, 13-play march that took 8:15 off the clock. A pass interference penalty on Haden extended the drive, and Stephen Gostkowski’s 33-yard field goal pulled the Patriots within 14-10 with 17 seconds left in the third quarter.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at [email protected] or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.