The Lions still have not won in Pittsburgh since 1955. This was their best chance to break that dubious string, but Detroit was not up to the challenge.
Detroit heads home for a date with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are now 2-8 after whipping the Atlanta Falcons. It's the very definition of a trap game, an inferior opponent before a short-week contest with the division rival Green Bay Packers.
The Bucs are dangerous, having won two in a row. The Lions will have to bring a better all-around effort to Ford Field than they brought to Pittsburgh, or else they risk being humiliated.
The grading scale here is somewhat subjectively based on my expectations for player performance. As an example, if Ndamukong Suh gets three tackles and one quarterback pressure, that will grade lower than C.J. Mosley doing the same things.
Impact plays like turnovers, touchdowns or other big plays rate highly. Penalties, blown assignments and giveaways really hurt the grade for a player.
Here are my grades for the Lions..
*All statistics are from ESPN unless otherwise noted.
Other than one of the most prolific quarters in NFL history, Stafford turned in one of the worst games of his career.
He finished 19-of-46, including just 3-of-16 in the second half. While his receivers dropped a few, Stafford was not sharp and missed several open receivers. In addition, the Steelers dropped at least two interceptions where they appeared to be the intended target.
He did set the franchise record for passing yards, as well as getting to 100 career touchdown passes faster than all but Dan Marino, Johnny Unitas and Kurt Warner. It matters not, because by and large Stafford was not close to his best in the loss.
Bush was ineffective on the sloppy turf, unable to deploy his patented jump cuts. He finished with just 31 yards on 12 carries, punctuated by two fumbles. One of those fumbles was spared on a missed call by the officials, however.
Bush was benched in the second half for his ineffective play. He returned only when forced by injury need, and he did not respond well. I do bump him up a half-grade for a strong pass-protection blitz pickup.
Joique Bell was more effective on the ground, but it was not his most effective day either. He did look very good hitting the right side, and he broke at least three tackles while fighting for extra yards. Nine carries for 49 yards is solid output on the loose turf.
He was also the second-leading receiver on the Lions with three receptions for 48 yards. Bell left the game with an ankle injury and did not return.
He saw scant playing time but made little of it, dropping the only ball thrown his way.
For three quarters of this game, Megatron was transformed into just another guy. But oh, what a second quarter!
Johnson caught five of his six passes in that great period, and his other catch came on the final play of the first quarter. He was good for 179 yards and two touchdowns in that short span.
He was blanked the rest of the game as the Steelers heavily rolled extra coverage his way. Johnson picked up a false-start penalty and had two drops by my eyes.
Durham caught three of his nine targets, dropping another. He really struggled to get open, and even when he did, he and his former Georgia roommate Stafford did not appear on the same page. On first blush, this was his worst all-around game of the season.
On a week where I opined about Ross' future as the slot receiver, Ross did not help himself in his quest for long-term job security.
He dropped one pass, to go with one reception on a nice crossing route. Ross struggled to quickly get open and present himself as a target against the Pittsburgh zones. I did note a couple of solid blocking efforts, which augments the grade a little.
The most visible play for Ogletree was a bad drop on a late possession. He got behind the defense, and Stafford put the ball in his hands, but Ogletree bobbled it away. He did not catch any of the three balls thrown his way.
Pettigrew hauled in a difficult catch on the first offensive play. He was dinged up while making the catch and left for a few plays. When he came back he was not nearly as quick, and caught just two more passes.
He does deserve high praise for his run blocking, which was once again quite effective. Pettigrew is playing his way into a shiny new contract, and even though his numbers weren't great in this game he demonstrated why he'll be worth it.
The big rookie made one catch, a great third-down conversion on a square-out route on the Lions' first drive of the game. That 14-yard grab was the only time he was visible, though he was on the field for at least 15 other snaps.
More than any other lineman, Reiff appeared adversely impacted by the poor field conditions. I noted him losing his footing several times. He was on the hook for the Jason Worilds sack. The run blocking was solid early, as I have him for a pancake block on a Bush run. But that fell off as the game progressed, particularly on calls where Reiff was asked to pull across the formation.
Other than the allowed sack, Reiff was a rock in pass protection.
The veteran guard played quite well in the second quarter, but he did not impress much in the rest of the game. It was not his best outing in run blocking. He also was guilty of a penalty, which was declined.
Raiola made the notes several times, and almost all are positive. He historically struggles versus three-man defensive fronts, but the center had a strong day against Pittsburgh. On the Joique Bell touchdown run, he hammered open the hole.
I wrote about Warford's performance in the initial game takeaways. One word: dominant.
Waddle earned the start at right tackle once again, but this was not a good outing. He struggled in pass protection in the second half, giving up several pressures. To his credit, the running game was at its best running to his side, and he nailed Jarvis Jones to the turf twice. He loses half a grade for a false start penalty.
I've been his biggest fan, and I still strongly believe he's a long-term starter, but Waddle will not like the film-room breakdown of his performance in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers focused a lot of blocking attention on Suh, and he was largely neutralized. He did not officially record a single tackle, though my notes had him for a tackle-for-loss on Felix Jones.
I also noted that Suh upped the intensity level on Pittsburgh's third drive, after the Steelers had scored touchdowns on their first two possessions. He played well but has little to show for it.
As I wrote in the initial takeaways, once again Fairley is all or nothing. He dominated for a short stretch but was largely a liability the rest of the game. This is what he does, and Lions fans will just have to accept that going forward.
One word springs to mind: ineffective. Young could not generate pressure against what has been a very substandard Steelers left tackle situation. He never got near Big Ben. Young also got caught flat-footed and missed an easy tackle-for-loss. This was his worst game of the season.
Taylor filled in as the starting right end for an injured Ziggy Ansah. Like Young, he struggled to get into the backfield despite facing a makeshift Pittsburgh line. I had him for two QB pressures, but he did not register a single tackle.
It almost seems as if I could cut and paste Idonije's grade every week. Other than an inspired effort against his old team in Chicago last week, Idonije offers nothing to this defense. He registered one tackle and looked sluggish in his attempts to rush the passer.
Once Ansah returns from his ankle injury, his fellow African native needs to be the one losing the playing time. Sorry Izzy, but it's over.
Mosley was the most effective pass-rusher for Detroit on the day despite only playing about half the snaps. He hit Roethlisberger twice and forced an errant throw on another gut rush. Unfortunately, he was guilty of a Fairley-esque roughing penalty.
Lane saw heavy action early and flashed a little as a pass-rusher. After that, it was hard to notice him on the field even with his garish ponytail.
He could have emerged a hero, but Levy dropped two interceptions. Still, Levy was the best Lions defender on the field. He was quite active in coverage and also notched two tackles in the backfield. I had him for one bad missed tackle, which is several fewer than his primary cohort.
A week after I mistakenly gave Tulloch a lower grade than he deserved, he earned the low mark this week. I had the linebacker for five missed tackles, including two on the first drive. He was beaten by Heath Miller in coverage for two critical third-down conversions on Pittsburgh scoring drives, and he generally looked a step slow and a count late most of the game.
Tulloch did stuff the run nicely in the second half, salvaging a passable grade.
I know he played only because I charted his snap count. He was on the field for 11 plays but did not come near making a play on one of them.
The go-ahead touchdown for the Steelers is partially on his coverage, as he was sucked inside on the play fake. McIntosh did play well other than that play in his short-yardage specialist role, picking up a tackle-for-loss.
On Pittsburgh's first play, Houston nicely shed a block and planted Heath Miller to the turf with a beautiful open-field tackle. It was all downhill from there.
Houston was repeatedly victimized in coverage by Antonio Brown. Other than one nice pass deflection where he finally played the ball and not the man, Pittsburgh found lots of success picking on the veteran. Two missed tackles further hurts the grade.
It was a relatively quiet day for Mathis, and quiet means good in pass coverage. He broke up one pass and was on the hook for just one completion by my notes.
Quin missed two tackles on the opening drive. He did little else before leaving the game early with an injury from which he did not return. I did catch him with an effective blitz, which would be a welcome development going forward.
The safety was all over the field. He was very effective against the run, quickly swooping down and finishing tackles. Delmas is at his best when keeping everything in front of him, and he did a great job of that in Pittsburgh.
This game illustrated why Carey is a safety and not a cornerback. He was very tough and physical against the run, bagging two tackles-for-loss and being mighty disruptive in run support.
In coverage, however, Carey was repeatedly exposed. He could not hang with Jerricho Cotchery or Markus Wheaton on late drives, and when he was matched up against Heath Miller he also looked bad.
I only have one note on Slay, who did not play more than a handful of snaps. He got his shoulder in on a tackle on a short pass.
Gomes filled in for an injured Quin and generally acquitted himself pretty well. I noted his closing speed and sound tackling in my scribbles.
Martin boomed three punts for a gross average of more than 50 yards per kick, and his kickoffs allowed just one return attempt. That's the good.
The bad is not entirely his fault. He was asked to play running back on the ill-conceived fake field goal, and he fumbled when he was hit well short of the goal. I'm not going to dock him too hard for Jim Schwartz's mistake.
Akers made both of his field-goal attempts, though one was a bank shot off the upright. He gets extra credit for kicking in the rain on an inadequate playing surface.
This was one of Spurlock's best games, continuing a bit of a renaissance for the embattled return man. He broke off a couple of nifty punt returns where he made the first tackler miss. Spurlock also fielded a rolling punt that saved at least 10 yards of field position. Progress!