9/21/22 By Nick Antonakas
BOSTON – The New England Patriots held off the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 17-14 to get their first win of the 2022 season this past Sunday.
Coming off a disappointing start to the season featuring a terrible loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots looked to bounce back against the Steelers. Pittsburgh, who stunned the reigning AFC champions, the Cincinnati Bengals, by a score of 23-20 in overtime last week with a combined 5 defensive turnovers, looked to build up their record to continue to contend in the ever-so-tough AFC North Division.
The Steelers offense faced a tough start in this one thanks to a great defensive showing by the Pats, forcing Pittsburgh to punt. With the ball, the Patriots drove down the field, with their impressive drive getting stunted thanks to a delay of game call, leading to the Patriots failing to gain the first down., Thus, they settled for a field goal to take the 3-0 lead.
The Patriots defense continued to pressure Pittsburgh, having what seemed to be a fumble recovery taken in for a touchdown called back. Despite this turnover for a score getting called back, New England made up for it with cornerback Jaylen Mills picking off Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky, giving the ball back to the Pats.
The Steelers defense responded swiftly, with safety Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepting Mac Jones’ attempted long ball to Devante Parker, handing the ball back to Trubisky and Pittsburgh’s offense. The Steelers drove down the field, but similar to the Patriots first drive, were held to three points, knotting the score up at 3-3.
Following a back and forth defensive battle which saw no score from either team, the Patriots broke the tie with a 44 yd touchdown pass from Mac Jones to Nelson Aghalor with 22 seconds left in the half. New England was able to close out the half by shutting down Pittsburgh’s attempt at driving down the field with a sack by Matthew Judon and a swat down of the Hail Mary attempt in the final seconds of the half. The Patriots headed to the locker room leading 10-3.
Looking to build on their lead, New England started with the ball in the second half. In a drive featuring a plethora of flags and miscommunications, the Patriots had to settle for a 52 yard field goal attempt which veteran kicker, Nick Folk, missed. The Steelers, with a chance to tie up the game, got stuffed in New England territory thanks to great back-to-back plays by safety Jabrill Peppers, who was filling in for Patriots star safety Kyle Duggar, who left the game with a knee injury. The Steelers were forced to settle for 3 points to cut the Patriots lead to 4, with the Pats staying in front 10-6.
With the ball back, the Patriots offensive struggles continued, being forced to punt again after a lackluster drive. However, New England was granted an unintentional gift by former Patriot and current Steelers punt returner, Gunner Olszewski, who dropped the punt, leading to Patriots special teamer Brenden Schooler recovering the ball at Pittsburgh’s 20 yard line. The Pats were able to capitalize on the opportunity, with Damien Harris punching it in to the end zone for 6, boosting the Patriots lead to 17-6.
Pittsburgh was quick to respond once again, trucking 75 yards down the field, with Trubisky finishing the drive with a touchdown strike to Pat Freiermuth. The Steelers, down 17-12, went for a two point conversion. It was ruled as a complete catch on the field but not without some contesting by the Patriots, who believed Steelers wide receiver Dionte Johnson was out of bounds. Nonetheless, the game carried on with the two point try counting, the Patriots still in the lead, 17-14.
With the ball back and 14:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Patriots’ minor miscommunications and penalties cost them as they had to punt back to Pittsburgh without scoring any points. Despite the constant hiccups on offense, the Patriots defense continued to hold strong, shutting down Pittsburgh to force the ball back into their possession. The defensive eye for an eye theme of this game continued as the Steelers defense responded by forcing the Pats to go 3 and out, followed by the Pats forcing the Steelers to go 3 and out.
With 6:33 remaining in the game, the Patriots offense was finally able to perform. On a 13 play drive to run out the clock, New England’s running game clicked on all cylinders. Damian Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson helped push New England 46 yards down the field, putting them in position to run out the clock to clinch their first win of the season. Week two saw a massive improvement for the Patriots compared to their week one matchup, but there’s still much more to improve on before they can establish themselves as a contending team in the AFC. Shakey offensive play calling, an inconsistent offensive line, and too many penalties all around plague the Patriots from moving forward as a legitimate contender.
New England, now standing at 1-1 on the season, look to continue to improve as they head back to Foxboro next week for their first home game of the season against the Baltimore Ravens. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.