Steelers hold off Lions' rally

The Steelers held off a late Detroit Lions rally with a flurry of sacks for a 28-20 win. Mike Tomlin's post-game transcript included.

The Steelers were taken to the wire for the fifth time in five games this season, but three consecutive sacks turned back a Detroit Lions upset bid and the Steelers held on for a 28-20 win.

The 3-2 Steelers took a 28-13 lead into the fourth quarter, and once again their opponent rallied.

The 1-4 Lions drove 82 yards to cut the lead to eight points with a 25-yard Daunte Culpepper touchdown pass to Dennis Northcutt with 4:57 left in the game.

The Steelers punted and the Lions began another drive from their 29 with 3:07 left. Culpepper's 21-yard pass to Northcutt on 3rd-and-19 put the ball at the Pittsburgh 21 with 1:54 remaining, but pressure cornerback William Gay and linebacker LaMarr Woodley sacked Culpepper, and then Gay sacked him again on second down. On 3rd-and-21, Lawrence Timmons came on a delayed blitz up the middle to sack Culpepper, who was forced to throw up a long pass on 4th-and-34 that was batted away by Ike Taylor at the goal line.

The Steelers sacked Culpepper seven times, three by James Harrison. Gay and Woodley had 1.5 apiece.

Ben Roethlisberger was once again the offensive star. He completed 23 of 30 passes for 277 yards and 3 touchdowns for a passer rating of 123.9. He was also intercepted by William James, who returned the out pass intended for Mike Wallace 38 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter that cut the Steelers' lead to 14-13.

Roethlisberger came back with a 47-yard touchdown pass to Wallace in the third quarter. He'd earlier thrown touchdown passes of 15 yards to Heath Miller and 17 yards to Hines Ward, who dove over safety Marquand Manuel at the goal line.

Rashard Mendenhall carried 15 times for 77 yards to lead all rushers. His 7-yard touchdown run in the first quarter gave the Steelers a 7-3 lead.

The Steelers outgained the Lions by only 344-335, while the Lions converted 11 of 18 third downs and had a 5:10 advantage in time of possession.

RG Trai Essex and FS Ryan Clark were injured in the game, but returned to finish. DE Aaron Smith missed the final defensive series. Coach Mike Tomlin was not asked about Smith in the post-game press conference.

Mike Tomlin, Coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

We had yet to win a road game this year. Of course we were five weeks into this thing and hadn't had back-to-back victories. With a victorious performance today we were able to do some of those things. Far from perfect, we acknowledge that, and we'll get back in the lab and evaluate, but on Sundays we play, we don't evaluate. We'll continue to search for the ceiling. We've got some areas that need improvement, and that's OK. As long as we acknowledge that and continue to work at it and find ways to win along the way, we'll accept that. Good to get a victory in a hostile environment. Appreciate the support of Steeler Nation. Man, they traveled awesome today. It's spectacular to stand on the visiting sideline to see the fan support that we had today.

Q: Could you talk about the pressure your defense applied on that last drive?

A: We executed in detail, and really that's all it is. If you have great detail, splash plays happen. We put together some rush combinations at the end with some great detail and energy, some good coverage on the back end, was able to finish the game out. It's kind of the signature of winning football, of winning defense, and we were able to do it today.

Q: Could you talk about Ben Roethlisberger coming back with a touchdown drive after that interception return for a touchdown?

A: This guy's a great quarterback and they don't blink, even in the face of adversity. Every now and then people are going to make plays. Give credit to William James that jumped on that ball. Nice break. But Ben doesn't blink. Our offense doesn't blink. Hopefully our football team doesn't blink. We went right back to work, which is, of course, what we need to do in answer and kind of quell that momentum, and I thought we were able to do that.

Q: Could you talk more about the detail at the end when you got three consecutive sacks?

A: Just blitz packages, closed calls, communication, proper rush lanes, coordinated with good coverage makes things happen. Like what I saw.

Q: Were the first two sacks in that series the same exact call?

A: You know I'm not going to talk to you guys about calls.

Q: Before the half, why did you drive to midfield and then take a knee?

A: We were too far out and of course we had some offensive linemen who are playing under less-than-ideal circumstances, ankles and so forth -- talking about Chris (Kemoeatu) and of course Trai Essex went down in the game. Didn't want to potentially expose them to anything if we threw up a victory pass and they came down with it and came back at us, so forth, so we just did the prudent thing and took the knee.

Q: Could you talk about the running game with Rashard Mendenhall?

A: He's still continuing to run the ball hard. Didn't get as many looks as we would have liked. They had a lot to do with that. They controlled possession of the ball. Got to give the Lions credit for that, particularly in the second half. Would like to have had more runs, but gotta acknowledge that they had something to do with that by the way they possessed the football. They beat us in time of possession pretty handily today.

Q: Could you talk about Heath Miller and what he was able to do today?

A: I would tell you to talk to Heath but we all know where that's going to get you. Um, Heath is a pro. Ben's got a great deal of comfort in him. And really, the things that are exciting right now offensively are Ben's using all of his eligibles. He's dumping the ball to Rashard; he's dumping the ball to Mewelde Moore; of course Heath is a constant; he's finding his third wideout in Mike Wallace. I think as long as we use all the eligibles and kind of be inclusive and throw the ball to the open man, we're going to be a tougher unit to stop. That's one of the encouraging things that's been going on with us in recent weeks offensively.

Q: Did the Lions adjust to what you were doing offensively in the second half?

A: You've got to give those guys credit. They did a nice job getting at us. We've got to execute a little better. More than anything, the way they possessed the ball and converted third downs, we did more watching than playing. When you do that, boy, you'd better be perfect and we weren't.

Q: How's Ryan Clark?

A: He came back at the end of the game. I'm sure there will be some issues there early in the week, but he was well enough to come back in at the end of the game.

Q: How about Trai Essex?

A: Same thing. Trai came back and finished the game. It was less-than-ideal circumstances, but such is life at times in the National Football League.

Q: What do you expect from Troy Polamalu?

A: I'll tell you on Tuesday.

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