The big plays on offense (specifically JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s) will steal most of the headlines.
But the way the Steelers’ defense dominated the Lions in the red zone had as much or more to do with a Sunday night win over the Lions, and came as a direct result of those guys being challenged.
Via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, coach Mike Tomlin had called out the defense last week, telling them their red zone work “sucked.” Coupled with the Lions continuing to try to get to the end zone in vain, they clearly had an edge about them.
“I felt like they were trying us. It’s disrespectful,” linebacker Vince Williams said of fourth-and-goal tries. “[Matt] Prater’s a great kicker. You better run him out here or ya’ll aren’t about to get any points.”
It was a frustrating night for the Lions. Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 423 yards but not that last one he needed. Twice in the second half they turned it over on downs inside the 10-yard line, including once when a field goal would have given them a 15-13 lead.
That first stop was punctuated by Smith-Schuster’s play, which effectively marked the end of the night for the Lions.