Steelers vs. Rams score: Pittsburgh wins its fourth straight as Minkah Fitzpatrick causes two L.A. turnovers

On a day where the Steelers wore their throwback jerseys honoring the 1979 Steelers victory over Rams in Super Bowl XIV, it’s fitting that Pittsburgh won a throwback, physical, defensive-oriented game over the Rams. 

With members of Pittsburgh’s original Steel Curtain watching from the sideline, the Steelers’ current defense dominated a Rams offense that was without staring center Brian Allen for the entire second half. 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 a 3-0 start, are 5-4 and in third place in the NFC West. 

Here’s how the Steelers were able to pull off the upset while strengthening their case as AFC playoff contenders. 

Why the Steelers won

Pittsburgh’s defense, a unit that entered the game with the second most forced turnovers in the NFL, continued to come up with turnovers on Sunday. Fitzpatrick, who leads the Steelers with five interceptions since joining Pittsburgh in Week 3, has four interceptions and two touchdowns in his last three games. Pittsburgh’s defense was also able to put consistent pressure on quarterback Jared Goff, with T.J. Watt coming up with two of the Steelers’ four sacks. The Steelers’ defense was especially dominant on third down, holding Los Angeles to 1-for-14 on third downs. Pittsburgh’s defense also came up with two critical stops on the Rams’ final two possessions. After Terrell Edmunds deflected Goff’s fourth down, end zone pass with under two minutes left, Fitzpatrick’s pick off of a deflection by Joe Haden — who recorded an interception to start the second half — put the game on ice. 

While they failed to operate near the efficiency level of its defense, Pittsburgh’s offense mounted two long scoring drives that included a 60-yard drive in the fourth quarter and leading by just two points. Mason Rudolph, who out-played Goff on this night, completed a risky fourth down pass to Trey Edmunds on the drive. The drive also included three incompletions for 40 yards to receiver James Washington, who caught a career-high six passes or 90 yards that included a three-yard touchdown catch that tied the scored in the first quarter. 

Why the Rams lost 

The Rams’ offense, playing without center Brian Allen (who left the game with a knee injury) for most of the game, struggled to protect Goff, who was sacked four times while getting hit on numerous other occasions. The pressure contributed to Goff’s three turnovers that included on Fitzpatrick’s 43-yard fumble return in the second quarter that gave the Steelers the lead for good. While their inability to convert on third down was critical, the Rams’ inability to get Todd Gurley (12 touches) more and receiver Cooper Kupp (zero receptions) involved at all also contributed to the loss. 

The Rams’ inability to capitalize on the momentum gained from Aaron Donald and Clay Matthews sack/safety of Rudolph was a key turning point in the game. Instead of further cutting into Pittsburgh’s 14-12 lead, the Rams went three-and-out following the safety. The Steelers then marched 60 yards on 14 plays while setting up Boswell’s 33-yard kick that made the score 17-12 with 2:46 left. 

While they played winning football for most of the game, the Rams’ defense — which started the game with a 26-yard fumble return or a score by Dante Fowler — allowed several critical plays to quarterback Mason Rudolph, who completed passes to seven different teammates. Los Angeles’ 95 penalty yards was also a significant reason why the Rams lost their fourth game in six outings. 

Turning point

After doing nothing on their first three possessions, the Steelers’ offense finally woke up on their final possession of the first quarter. A 30-yard completion to rookie wideout Diontae Johnson and a 13-yard completion to Washington set up Rudolph’s game-tying touchdown pass to Washington, his former teammate at Oklahoma State. 

Play of the game

A week after returning an interception 96 yards for a score in Pittsburgh’s Week 9 win over the Colts, Fitzpatrick’s fumble return on Sunday gave the Steelers the lead for good. Defensive lineman Javon Hargrave’s pressure of Goff forced the fumble. 

Fitzpatrick’s presence on Sunday helped Pittsburgh limit the Rams to 16 first downs, eight punts and just 306 total yards. 

Quotable I

“Helluva pass deflection for INT and game period by the homie @joehaden23!! Keep going G!” — NBA All-Star LeBron James, via social media, congratulating Haden for his third quarter interception. James and Haden became friends during their time with the Cavaliers and Browns, respectively. 

Quotable II

“It was cool, man. He talks a lot. He talks so much. He said so many cuss words that I never heard of and I am 22 years old.” — JuJu Smith-Schuster on Jalen Ramsey, via Mark Kaboly of The Athletic. While he finished with three receptions for 44 yards, Smith-Schuster caught a key pass on Pittsburgh’s final scoring drive on Ramsey, who drew headlines after saying that Smith-Schuster was not Antonio Brown prior to the game. Ramsey also was called twice for pass interference that included a key DPI on Pittsburgh’s first scoring drive. 

What’s next

The Steelers, who are currently the sixth seed in the AFC, are facing the Browns in Cleveland on Thursday night. Pittsburgh has won eight straight games against Cleveland dating back to the 2015 season. The Rams will host the 4-5 Bears next Sunday night. 

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