Detroit Lions-Pittsburgh Steelers ending surprises some players

November 15, 2021

PITTSBURGH – Najee Harris returned to the bench after Pat Freiermuth’s overtime fumble and prepared for the Steelers’ next offense. The only problem: there wouldn’t be another Pittsburgh possession.

The Detroit Lions (0-8-1) tried to pull a series of wings in a last-ditch effort to break the 16-16 tie in the closing seconds, but D’Andre Swift was pushed out of bounds to end the game. in the first NFL draw since Week 3 of the 2020 season.

Still, the rookie running back didn’t realize it was all over until a teammate told him.

“I didn’t even know you could tie in the NFL,” Harris said. “In my mind, I was sitting on the bench and saying, ‘I have another twenty-five cents left.’ But someone came up to me and said, ‘That’s it.’ I’ve never had a tie before in my life.”

Harris wasn’t the only one not expecting the abrupt and unsatisfying ending.

“It’s crazy,” Lions second-year running back Godwin Igwebuike said. “I’m back there like, ‘How many overtime can we do?’ And they’re like ‘3 … I hear 2, 1’ and we said, ‘Hey, whatever’s going on, we’re about to put in all our effort.

With the tie, the Lions avoided a 0-17 season, but are still on a 13-game winless streak that dates back to last season.

“I’m in an unfamiliar zone,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “I don’t know what this really is, and I’m sure I’ve been in a draw before as a player, but for some reason I can’t remember that, if it was.”

The final 10-minute period was a comedy of errors for both teams.

“Ties suck,” Steelers defensive captain Cam Heyward said. “I know it’s a draw, but if it’s not a win, I don’t think you can hang your hat on that.”

The Lions won the coin toss and opted to receive, they only needed one touchdown to win it. Instead, the Steelers (5-3-1) recovered the ball in four plays, sealed by a 9-yard catch by Heyward. Then, on the ensuing possession, quarterback Mason Rudolph, starting in place of Ben Roethlisberger, completed a 19-yard pass to Diontae Johnson on the second play, but Johnson fumbled and the Lions rallied.

“He was just trying to make a play,” Johnson said. “Like what everyone else would do in that situation: catch the ball like that, try to make a play for the team, put them in a good field position. I didn’t see the kid coming up behind me.”

Apparently Lions quarterback Jared Goff returned the ball to the Steelers on the next play with an interception by Minkah Fitzpatrick, but a defensive hold call against Devin Bush canceled it out. Instead, possession ended with a missed 48-yard field goal by Ryan Santoso, elevated a day earlier when kicker Austin Seibert landed on injured reserve.

A high shot from center Kendrick Green to Rudolph on the second play of the next drive doomed that drive, but the Lions also did nothing with their next possession.

The Steelers recovered the ball with 1:37 remaining and made it across midfield. But on the first try since Detroit’s 39, Rudolph hit Freiermuth for a 1-yard gain, but safety Will Harris forced a fumble and linebacker Trey Flowers cornered the fumble.

With Freiermuth’s fumble, the Steelers became the first team to lose multiple fumbles in a single overtime period since at least 2000, according to research from ESPN Stats & Information. The Steelers are also the 16th team to commit multiple turnovers in overtime since 1978.

The Lions were unable to do anything on the final play, sealing the tie.

“A draw in the NFL always feels like a loss when you get to the locker room because you’re not adding one to the win column,” linebacker Joe Schobert said. “It’s midgame. In the end it could make a difference. Letting it slip away when you’re that close definitely hurts.”

ESPN’s Eric Woodyard contributed to this report.