Patriots Vs. Steelers Live: New England Prevails 27-24 In Instant Classic At Heinz Field

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New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola

Photo via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images

Final, Patriots 27-24: There is a new top dog in the AFC.

The New England Patriots prevailed over the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24 at Heinz Field after what easily was the wildest finish of this NFL season. The win clinched a ninth consecutive AFC East title for the Patriots and vaulted them into first place into the AFC.

Dion Lewis scored a touchdown with 56 seconds remaining to put the Patriots ahead, but Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster immediately responded with a 69-yard catch-and-run to bring Pittsburgh into field-goal range. On the next play, Ben Roethlisberger hit tight end Jesse James for what initially appeared to be a go-ahead touchdown.

Officials reviewed the play, however, and ruled that James did not complete the catch. After completing a short pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey, Roethlisberger attempted to dupe the Patriots with a fake spike but had his pass intercepted in the end zone by Duron Harmon, sealing the win for New England.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski finished with nine catches on 13 targets for 168 yards — 69 of which came on the final scoring drive — to lead the Patriots’ offense.

Next up for New England is a home game against the Buffalo Bills next Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.

Fourth quarter, 0:56, Patriots 27-24: Rob Gronkowski, ladies and gentlemen.

The Patriots tight end, who has been dominant all game, entered full-on Incredible Hulk mode when his team needed him most, catching three passes for 69 yards as New England took the lead for the first time since the first quarter.

Dion Lewis finished the drive off with an 8-yard touchdown run, and Tom Brady hit Gronkowski for the 2-point conversion.

Fourth quarter, 2:06, Steelers 24-19: The Patriots’ defense delivered a much-needed three-and-out, with Duron Harmon and Eric Rowe teaming up to stop JuJu Smith-Schuster just short of the marker on third down.

Tom Brady will get the ball back with just over two minutes to play.

Fourth quarter, 3:56, Steelers 24-19: The Patriots converted two third downs, including one on a defensive pass interference call against Rob Gronkowski, but wound up with only a field goal after Bud Dupree sacked Tom Brady on third down.

Brandin Cooks appeared to catch a long pass down the left sideline that would have set the Patriots up inside the Steelers’ 10, but officials ruled he stepped out of bounds before the catch, negating the play.

Fourth quarter, 7:38, Steelers 24-16: Two penalties forced the Steelers into a third-and-25, which they did not convert.

Pittsburgh traveled just 31 yards on the drive but milked more than seven minutes off the clock. This remains a one-score game as we approach the halfway mark of the fourth quarter.

Third quarter, 0:22, Steelers 24-16: Rob Gronkowski has been a monster today, but the Patriots’ offense as a whole is sputtering.

Gronkowski’s 17-yard reception (he’s up to six catches for 99 yards) highlighted an otherwise uneventful Patriots drive that ended in a punt.

Third quarter, 1:33, Steelers 24-16: The Steelers made Tom Brady pay for his miscue.

Le’Veon Bell capped a brief Pittsburgh scoring drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Linebacker Elandon Roberts shot the gap and had a chance to bring Bell down in the backfield, but he couldn’t get a hand on the NFL’s rushing leader.

Third quarter, 4:40, Steelers 17-16: Tom Brady just made his first big mistake of the night.

Brady tried to force a pass to running back James White on third-and-2 but was hit as he threw, causing the ball to flutter into the hands of linebacker Vince Williams, giving Pittsburgh the ball at the New England 22.

Third quarter, 8:50, Steelers 17-16: Two clutch catches Rob Gronkowski helped the Patriots score their second touchdown of the night, but a missed extra point by Stephen Gostkowski prevented them from tying the score.

Tom Brady connected with Gronkowski on a beautiful 22-yard pickup early in the drive, then found the big tight end again to convert on fourth-and-1.

After another pass to Gronkowski near the pylon fell incomplete, Brady connected with Cooks in the end zone for a 4-yard score. Gostkowski shanked the ensuing point after, though, allowing Pittsburgh to maintain a one-point lead.

The Patriots will be shorthanded offensively for the rest of evening, as running back Rex Burkhead has been ruled out after suffering a knee injury near the goal line. Burkhead scored New England’s first touchdown of the night and has been a productive dual-threat back for the Pats in recent weeks.

Halftime, Steelers 17-10: The Steelers effectively closed out the first half with a seemingly interminable drive that took eight minutes and 39 seconds off the clock and ended with a 4-yard — and one-handed — touchdown catch by Martavis Bryant.

Bryant beat Stephon Gilmore on the play.

The Steelers converted all four third downs they faced during the drive. They’re 7-for-9 on third down tonight and lead in time of possession by nearly 10 full minutes.

In other news, Antonio Brown is done for the day.

Second quarter, 9:04, 10-10: A 31-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski and 11- and 12-yarders to Danny Amendola put the Patriots in position for a game-tying field goal.

Incompletions on second and third down in the red zone prevented the Patriots from taking the lead. They settled for a 32-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.

Kenny Britt also made an appearance on the drive, catching a 7-yard pass on his first snap as a Patriot.

Second quarter, 12:15, Steelers 10-7: The Steelers took their first lead of the game on a 51-yard field goal by Chris Boswell, but their latest drive produced more bad news than good.

Star wide receiver Antonio Brown had to be helped off the field after a four-way collision in the end zone between him, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Duron Harmon and Eric Rowe.

After a brief stay in the sideline medical tent, Brown was taken to the locker room. Rowe also was shaken up on the play, but he walked off under his own power.

Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise teamed up to sack Ben Roethlisberger on the following play, sending out the field-goal unit.

Stephon Gilmore allowed two lengthy catches earlier in the drive, including this 39-yard beauty to Martavis Bryant:

First quarter, 2:12, 7-7: The Patriots’ second offensive possession went nowhere, with a sack by Cameron Heyward halting their momentum.

Heyward beat left guard Joe Thuney for the sack, the fourth Thuney has allowed in the last three games.

Running back James White was slow to get up after a third-down reception and was taken to the sideline medical tent for evaluation. We’ll provide updates on his condition once they become available.

First quarter, 5:32, 7-7: The Steelers responded, driving 69 yards in eight plays to tie the score.

Antonio Brown was able to shake Malcolm Butler to pick up 19 yards on third-and-4, and Ben Roethlisberger floated a pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster for another 13 yards on third-and-10 to extend the drive again.

One play after Smith-Schuster’s catch, Eli Rodgers beat Eric Rowe out of the slot for an 18-yard touchdown.

Butler covered Brown throughout the drive, with Stephon Gilmore mostly lining up opposite Martavis Bryant. Gilmore broke up a pass on a slant route by Bryant.

First quarter, 9:00, Patriots 7-0: What a start for the Patriots’ offense, which needed just 2:11 to score its first touchdown of the day.

Tom Brady began the drive with a 13-yard completion to Dion Lewis and later connected with Brandin Cooks on a 43-yard bomb that gave New England a first down at Pittsburgh’s 7-yard line.

After a hard run by Lewis down to the 1, touchdown machine Rex Burkhead checked in to finish the job. It was Burkhead’s sixth touchdown in the last four games.

The Steelers also did not help their own cause, as defensive end Cameron Heyward jumped offsides on third-and-1 to give the Patriots a fresh set of downs.

The Steelers also did not help their own cause, as defensive end Cameron Heyward jumped offsides on third-and-1 to give the Patriots a fresh set of downs.

First quarter, 12:11, 0-0: Le’Veon Bell is going to be a problem today.

Overall, though, it was a solid opening drive for New England, which benefited from a holding call on David DeCastro and forced a Pittsburgh punt. Safety Patrick Chung made the big play of the series, swatting away a deep pass to Jesse James on third down.

Cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore remained on the right and left sides of the formation, respectively, during the drive. Eric Rowe is New England’s third corner today, replacing Jonathan Jones.

First quarter, 15:00, 0-0: The Patriots won the opening coin toss and chose to defer. It’ll be Steelers ball first as we get underway from Heinz Field.

3:52 p.m.: Based on what we saw in warmups, it appears Cameron Fleming again will get the nod at right tackle over LaAdrian Waddle. Fleming also started over Waddle last week against Miami.

3:30 p.m.: The Heinz Field faithful greeted Tom Brady with a loud chorus of boos as the Patriots quarterback took the field. Brady responded by clapping his hands and raising his arms, egging the fans on.

This is going to be a fun game.

2:58 p.m.: Here are the Patriots’ inactives:

Defensive ends Trey Flowers and Eric Lee both are active for the Patriots, as are wide receiver Kenny Britt and linebacker David Harris. Harris missed last week’s game.

Ex-Patriots defensive tackle Terrance Knighton is predicting a big game from Flowers, who sat out the past two games with a rib injury. Flowers is New England’s top pass rusher, leading the team with six sacks this season.

For the Steelers, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is active, but cornerback Joe Haden is not. The Patriots have to be thankful about that, as Haden, who now has missed five straight games with a fractured fibula, is Pittsburgh’s best cover corner.

2:07 p.m.: Defensive end Eric Lee currently is going through an on-field workout in full pads, signifying he is a game-time decision.

Lee, who played every snap in last week’s loss to the Miami Dolphins, was limited in practice this week with an ankle injury and is listed as questionable. Losing him for today’s game would be a serious blow, as the Patriots have little depth on the edge.

1:50 p.m.: Pass the time before kickoff by checking out some of the top Patriots stories from the past week:

— A look at how the Patriots will cover Antonio Brown

— With Chris Hogan out, new guy Kenny Britt could be thrown into the fire

— After weeks of silence, Mike Gillislee addresses his string of healthy scratches

— Bill Belichick has confidence in Marcus Cannon’s replacements

— Is there a rift between Belichick and Alex Guerrero?

— Is this the biggest regular-season game of the Brady/Belichick era?

— How do we feel about Brandin Cooks 13 games into his Patriots career?

— Why Mike Tomlin hasn’t been afraid to hype up this game

— Looking ahead to the 2018 draft in this week’s Patriots mailbag

— This week’s “Between the Tackles” podcast:

11:42 a.m.: Here’s a surprise: Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan is not expected to play today, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Hogan missed four games with a shoulder injury, then did not look like himself in his first game back, catching just one pass on five targets for 1 yard in last Monday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins.

With him out, the Patriots will get a good look at new wide receiver Kenny Britt, whom the team signed earlier this week.

11:30 a.m. ET: Good morning from Pittsburgh, where the New England Patriots are preparing to take on the Steelers in one of the most highly anticipated games of the 2017 NFL season.

The winner of this clash between longtime rivals will assume first place in the AFC and have a clear path to home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

The Patriots beat the Steelers twice last season, including once in the AFC Championship Game, but Pittsburgh did not have its full complement of offensive weapons in either of those contests. They will today, as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown all are healthy and ready to go.

Steelers No. 2 wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster is listed as questionable but is expected to play, according to multiple reports. Ditto for cornerback Joe Haden, who missed the last four games with a fractured fibula.

Having Smith-Schuster active would make it more difficult for the Patriots to consistently double-cover Brown — who’s making a strong case this season to become the first wide receiver to win NFL MVP — and getting Haden back would greatly improve a Pittsburgh secondary that Tom Brady scorched when these teams last met in January.

Speaking of Brady, the Patriots quarterback will have his most dangerous target back for this game. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is eligible to return to action after serving his one-game suspension, and that’s bad news for a Steelers defense that will be without star linebacker Ryan Shazier.

Pittsburgh only has held Gronkowski below 90 receiving yards in one of their five career meetings, and Gronk caught three touchdown passes in that game. Expect Brady to frequently look Gronkowski’s way over the middle and down the seam — areas of the field New England struggled to attack in last week’s loss to the Miami Dolphins.

On defense, the Patriots will be without starting linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive tackle Alan Branch but could have defensive end Trey Flowers back. Flowers, New England’s best pass rusher, missed the past two games with a rib injury but made the trip to Pittsburgh. He’s one of eight Patriots players listed as questionable.

Kickoff from Heinz Field is set for 4:25 p.m. ET, but be sure to check back here throughout the day for full pregame coverage.

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