INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP)Both the Steelers and the Rams knew their tight game wasn’t solely decided by one questionable fourth-down spot at the two-minute warning.
That didn’t make Los Angeles any happier about the officials’ decision – and Pittsburgh wasn’t about to apologize for earning a big break in its impressive comeback victory.
Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris rushed for touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and the Steelers awoke from a quiet offensive day just in time to grab a 24-17 victory over the Rams on Sunday.
Kenny Pickett passed for 230 yards and ran for another score for the Steelers (4-2), who had just 110 yards in the first three quarters at SoFi Stadium. But much-maligned coordinator Matt Canada’s offense finally found some holes in the Los Angeles (3-4) defense in the fourth quarter, racking up three long drives culminating in two TDs and the chance to run out the clock.
Pickett got that generous spot to convert a fourth-and-1 at the Los Angeles 38 on the final snap before the two-minute warning.
“I was getting it,” Pickett said. “I was doing whatever I could to get it, let’s put it that way.”
Coach Sean McVay couldn’t challenge the spot because the Rams were out of timeouts, and the play occurred just outside the window that would have resulted in a booth review.
“It doesn’t matter what I think,” McVay said. “That was the spot they made. I’m not going to sit here and make any excuses about stuff that didn’t go down. Those plays shouldn’t have come down to that if we executed like we were capable of.”
The spot was the culmination of a strong finish by the Steelers, who have won six consecutive games following a bye week and gone 13-4 after a bye in Mike Tomlin’s coaching career.
Pittsburgh’s only early touchdown came after T.J. Watt stepped in front of Matthew Stafford’s first pass of the second half deep in Rams territory and returned his seventh interception a career-best 24 yards, setting up Pickett’s 1-yard sneak for the Steelers’ first rushing touchdown of the entire season.
“We understand as a defense, we need to bow up in big-time moments and just try to change the tide of the game,” Watt said. “We just want to get that spark so it allows us to get going. We don’t want to be that team that starts games slow, starts second halves slow.”
Stafford passed for 231 yards and hit Tutu Atwell for a 31-yard touchdown right before halftime for Los Angeles, which dropped to 1-3 at home.
Rookie sensation Puka Nacua had eight catches for 154 yards, but the Rams struggled for consistent offense after halftime, scoring no points on their final three drives and managing only 20 yards while completing no passes in the fourth quarter. Brett Maher also missed two long field-goal attempts and an extra point.
“It’s just execution,” said Stafford, who failed to complete a pass in a fourth quarter with at least four attempts for only the second time in his 15-year NFL career. “We can’t have chances to make plays that are going to change the game one way or the other and not make those. We’ve got to be more consistent, and the only way to do that is to continue to work.”
Both offenses struggled for sustained possession in the first half until Los Angeles mounted an 88-yard drive shortly before halftime capped by the long TD catch by Atwell, who alertly cut in front of a pass apparently intended for Cooper Kupp from a scrambling Stafford.
The Steelers managed just 91 yards of offense in the first half and failed to convert a third down. They still tied it with 13:49 to play when Diontae Johnson’s 39-yard catch set up Warren’s 13-yard scoring run. Johnson had five catches for 79 yards in his return from injury.
George Pickens made four of his five receptions for 107 yards in the second half of Pittsburgh’s first win over the Rams in Los Angeles, where the Steelers had been 0-10.
Nacua has 58 receptions in his first seven games. That’s an NFL record, and it ties Saquon Barkley’s record for catches in a player’s first eight games before Nacua even takes the field next week. Nacua’s 752 yards receiving put him behind only Ja’Marr Chase (754) for the most yards in a receiver’s first seven games.
Darrell Henderson rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown in his season debut for Los Angeles, and Royce Freeman got 66 yards on his first carries of the season. Henderson was released last November after 3 1/2 seasons with the Rams, and the Super Bowl winner was out of the league this fall until LA re-signed him last week when its top two running backs went down with injuries late in a win over Arizona.
Steelers: Host Jacksonville next Sunday.
Rams: At Dallas next Sunday.
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