Detroit simply hung in there. Playing without a third of its starting offense, including QB Matthew Stafford, the ball club still had a chance late in the contest.
The Lions didn't do any one thing particularly well, but they demonstrated grit, refusing to cave in instances where previous renditions of this team would have.
After the injury to WR Calvin Johnson, the team fielded just three receivers, and even lost tight end Brandon Pettigrew to injury in the fourth quarter. Still, a rusty Daunte Culpepper (23-of-37, 282 yards) made the best of a less-than-suitable situation, making up for a dubious interception with a 25-yard touchdown strike to Dennis Northcutt.
William James' pick-six on Steelers' QB Ben Roethlisberger was a nice boost to a defense with secondary concerns dating back to last year.
"I don't want to think that this is anything other than a bottom line loss, but I was proud of the team," said Lions' head coach Jim Schwartz. "I was proud of the way they fought."
Detroit was again efficient on third-downs, converting 11 of their 18 opportunities for a 61-percent conversion rate.
WR Calvin Johnson departed Sunday's contest with an injured knee. The status of that injury is unknown.
All things being equal, the Lions had their opportunities, and promptly blew each of them.
- During Jason Hanson's 46-yard field goal in the first quarter, Pittsburgh jumped off-sides, but Schwartz declined the penalty without at least asking for a measurement. Even had the penalty not resulted in a first down, Hanson is more than capable of booming a 41-yarder.
- Trailing 7-3 with a first down on Pittsburgh's own seven-yard line, Culpepper was penalized 16 yards for an intentional grounding. The erratic error on Culpepper's part forced Detroit to settle for another field goal.
- Landon Cohen's roughing-the-passer penalty nullified a Detroit interception, and although the call may have been questionable (at best), it gave the Steelers new life. The drive culminated in Heath Miller's 15-yard touchdown catch-and-run.
- Late in the third quarter, on the Pittsburgh 36, Culpepper lofted a moon ball across the field (in what seemed to be an attempt to throw it away) that landed in the hands of Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark.
Besides his interception, Culpepper had three fumbles. Although each was recovered by Detroit, it nonetheless affected the team's rhythm and timing, underscoring Culpepper's rust after serving as back-up the first four weeks of the regular season.
But Culpepper's inefficiency behind center (and perhaps a slap in the face to those who thought he should start over Stafford) was most notable in his statuesque last few moments of the contest.
Although the team's offensive line should enjoy a large portion of the blame (it did forfeit seven sacks on the day), there was no pocket awareness, audibles, or semblance of ingenuity to help reach the end zone.
After fighting the entire game, it seemed Culpepper and Co. laid down in the waning moments.