‘Second Half’ Steelers Upend LA Rams 24-17

TJ Watt hits the field for the Steelers vs. Ravens game at Acrisure Stadium on October 8, 2023. Credit: Vince Butts/UMT.

By Ray Porter Jr.

LOS ANGELES, CA– 43 years ago (1980), 10.4 miles from Los Angeles at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the Pittsburgh Steelers and LA Rams were engaged in a battle that would decide who would be the Super Bowl XIV (14) Champion. Down 19-17 in the 4th quarter, QB Terry Bradshaw was able to lead the Steelers to 14 unanswered points en route to a 31-19 win and their 4th Super Bowl Championship in 6 years.

43 years later at SoFi Stadium home of today’s LA Rams, déjà vu kind of happened as the Steelers scored 14 unanswered points in the 4th quarter to beat the Rams 24-17 in front of a crowd of mostly terrible-towel waving fans.

“They don’t blink. They cut their eyelids off, and they go at it. Like I told them, it’s not a compliment. It’s required. I’m just acknowledging it,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin remarked. “We better be prepared to fight every time we step into the stadium because that’s what the National Football League is about.”

After a first half in which they scored only 3 points (and the Rams scored 9), the Steelers offense made the necessary adjustments in the second half which included 3 TDs and a huge interception by LB TJ Watt. The All-Pro stepped in front of a Matthew Stafford pass and returned it deep in Rams territory. Then Steelers QB Kenny Pickett’s 1-yard TD sneak gave the Steelers their first TD of the game and a 10-9 lead.

“If you watch his play, man, that’s what always happens, man,” said Tomlin. “T.J. is an ‘A’ player. He’s capable of inspiring his teammates. He’s capable of making game-turning plays. I don’t think any of us that work with him are surprised by that.”

But Stafford (14/29, 261 yards, TD, INT) and the Rams weren’t done as he led them on a 9 play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard TD by RB Darrell Henderson Jr. (18 carries, 61 yards) and a 2-point conversion from Stafford to WR Cooper Kupp to extend their lead over the Steelers to 17-10.

Then Pickett (17/25, 230 yards, Rush TD) provided the spark for the Steelers offense, as he completed key passes to WRs George Pickens (5 Rec, 107 yards) and Diontae Johnson (5 rec, 79 yards-his first game after returning from injury) to set-up TDs by his RBs Jaylen Warren (6 carries, 32 yards) and Najee Harris (14 carries, 53 yards) K Chris Boswell also added a 53-yarder in the first quarter.

“It’s a fight. It always is a fight. Sometimes it’s man versus himself. Sometimes it’s man versus opponent. I thought we shot ourselves in the foot some on possession down and play on both sides of the ball,” commented Tomlin.  We’ve got to be more successful on possession downs if you want more fluidity in the engineering of victory. It wasn’t enough fluidity probably the first two and a half quarters on either side.”

Rams WR Puka Nakua had an amazing game as he caught 9 passes for 154 yards, mostly in the first half. The Rams first TD came on a 31-yard TD pass from Stafford to WR Tutu Atwell. K Brett Maher added a first-quarter FG, but his 2 missed FGs and missed extra proved costly for the Rams.

On defense, the Steelers sacked Stafford twice, one of them by rookie Nik Herbig, his first NFL sack.

The Steelers will return home and prepare for their October 29th matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-2)

“We appreciate the support that we get from Steelers Nation. We do not take it for granted. But at the same time, we love to entertain them. They were in the building today and we’re thankful for that.  Obviously, we gotta clean up some things from a management of our emotions, but I would much rather say whoa, than sic ’em. We got some guys that are competitors. They just gotta compete in the appropriate and mature and professional way. We’ll use it as a learning experience. It’s good to learn while sitting at 4-2 as opposed to 3-3.”

Notes: Steelers HOF Troy Polamalu, James Farrior and Joe Haden were all at Sunday’s game.

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