On a day where the Steelers wore their throwback, 1970s style jerseys, it’s fitting that Pittsburgh won a throwback, physical, defensive-oriented game over the Rams. Four forced turnovers — two by safety Minkah Fitzpatrick — were the difference in the Steelers’ 17-12 victory. Pittsburgh, after a 1-4 start, is now 5-4, over .500 for the first time this season. The Rams, after an 3-0 start, are 5-4 and in third place in the NFC West.
The Rams took an early 7-0 lead on Dante Fowler’s 25-yard return of Mason Rudolph fumbled snap. It was a high snap from Maurkice Pouncey, a six-time Pro Bowler.
The only offensive score in the first half occurred when Rudolph hit second-year receiver (and former college teammate) James Washington on a 3-yard scoring pass near the end of the first quarter. Washington’s 13-yard catch two plays earlier and a 30-yard catch by rookie Diontae Johnson earlier in the drive helped set up the score.
Fitzpatrick’s 43-yard return of a Jared Goff fumble gave the Steelers a 14-7 halftime lead. Fitzpatrick, who has helped Pittsburgh’s defense become one of the league’s best since joining the Steelers in a trade from the Dolphins, has four interceptions and two touchdowns in the Steelers’ last three games. Pittsburgh’s defense had its way with Los Angeles during the first half, holding the Rams to 0-8 on third down while forcing five punts.
Despite two interceptions, one by cornerback Joe Haden, the Steelers’ offense was unable to parlay it’s defensive success into any third quarter points. The Rams’ offense, conversely, finally put points on the board near the end of the third. Goff, who briefly left the game after taking a shot from cornerback Mike Hilton, engineered a 76-yard drive that ended with Greg Zuerlein’s 30-yard field goal, trimming the Rams’ deficit to 14-10 entering the game’s final stanza.
After Clay Matthews and Aaron Donald collaborated to record a sack/safety of Rudolph with 12:40 left, Rudolph led the Steelers on a 60-yard drive that ended with Chris Boswell’s 33-yard field goal with 2:49 left. The drive included a fourth down completion from Rudolph to Edmunds with the Steelers deep in their own territory. It also included 40 yards on three receptions from Washington, whose 90 yards on six receptions are both career highs.
Pittsburgh’s defense held again on Los Angeles’ ensuing possession, with Terrell Edmunds breaking up Goff’s end zone pass attempt to Josh Reynolds on fourth down with 1:25 left. The Steelers’ defense sealed the win when Haden’s deflection of a Goff pass landed into the arms of Fitzpatrick with 20 seconds left.