Los Angeles Rams vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

LAR
12
PIT
17
FINAL
1234T
LAR 703212
PIT 770317

Game Information
Location: Heinz Field Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Attendance: 63,627

PITTSBURGH (AP) The ball fluttered into the air and hung there for a split second. When it came back down to earth, it landed where it always seems to these days for the Pittsburgh Steelers: the seemingly omnipresent arms of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Pittsburgh's decision to send a 2020 first-round draft pick to Miami in mid-September in exchange for Fitzpatrick just hours after losing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the season in mid-September seemed gutsy at best and borderline reckless at worst. What if the Steelers struggled without their franchise cornerstone? What if the bottom fell out and the draft capital they needed to find Roethlisberger's successor belonged to the Dolphins instead?

They're not asking those questions anymore. Not with the Steelers suddenly rolling and their do-everything free safety in the middle of it all.

Fitzpatrick returned a fumble 43 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter and added a game-sealing pick in the final seconds to close out a brutish 17-12 victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, spoiling Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald's homecoming in the process.

"Minkah's making all the plays," said Steelers cornerback Joe Haden, whose second interception of the season was among Pittsburgh's four takeaways. "Big plays. Impact plays. There's nothing else you can say. You watch the tape and see his impact is special."

Fitzpatrick pounced on a Jared Goff fumble and sprinted to the end zone to give the Steelers a 14-7 lead, his second touchdown in as many games following a tide-turning pick six against Indianapolis last week. His clinching interception after Goff pass intended for Robert Woods was swatted away by Haden gave Fitzpatrick six takeaways - five picks and one fumble recoveries - in seven games with the Steelers (5-4).

"It's crazy to just see him back there making plays on the ball all the time," Pittsburgh linebacker Bud Dupree said. "Not one time but all the time. Every game. Every game Minkah is making big plays on the back end."

The Steelers have needed nearly every one during a four-game winning streak that has helped them emerge from a 1-4 start. Pittsburgh has done it despite an offense that remains very much a work in progress. The Steelers again struggled to move the ball against Los Angeles, managing just 273 yards while playing without starting running backs James Conner and Benny Snell Jr.

Thirteen penalties and a handful of drops didn't help. Yet Pittsburgh remains in the mix in the AFC anyway thanks to Rudolph's ability to avoid major mistakes and a defense that has regained its swagger following Fitzpatrick's arrival. Rudolph finished 22 of 38 for 242 yards, including a 3-yard lob to James Washington in the first quarter made him the ninth quarterback since the 1970 merger to throw a touchdown pass in each of his first seven games.

Yet Rudolph knows the defense - which already has 26 takeaways this season after managing just 15 all of last year - could use a little help.

"They're playing like the '85 Bears," Rudolph said. "They are forcing turnovers every other series it seems like. We understand it's a team game. We're getting there. Today was a big step."

DOMINANT DONALD

The Steelers shuffled their offensive line during the week in hopes of slowing down Donald, a Pittsburgh native and a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. For a while, it worked. Then Donald crashed into Rudolph in the end zone for a safety early in the fourth quarter that drew the Rams within 14-12. He finished with five tackles, a half sack and two tackles for loss in his first appearance in his hometown since the Rams took him in the 2014 draft. It just wasn't enough to keep the defending NFC champions from falling further off the pace behind front-running San Francisco and Seattle in the NFC West.

"We've just got to keep playing ball," Donald said. "We can't worry about that. We have to go week to week and try to find ways to win games. That's what it comes down to. That's all you've got to do, try to find ways to win."

SPUTTERING RAMS

Goff finished 22 of 41 for 243 yards with two interceptions. Pittsburgh held Rams receiver Cooper Kupp without a catch for just the second time in his three-year career. Two weeks removed from a 220-yard performance against Cincinnati, Kupp was targeted four times and failed to come down with the ball even once. Running back Todd Gurley ran for 73 yards on 12 carries but the Rams couldn't find a way to get him involved regularly. He sat out the first two series of the fourth quarter. Los Angeles converted just 1 of 14 third downs, its lone touchdown coming on a 26-yard scoop and score by linebacker Dante Fowler on the second snap of the game.

"We didn't really allow ourselves to get into a rhythm," Rams coach Sean McVay said. "There was really no flow. We didn't convert any of the third downs, so myself, everybody really wasn't good enough today."

INJURIES

Rams: Center Brian Allen left in the first quarter with a knee issue and did not return. DB Darious Williams left with an ankle problem.

Steelers: Wide receiver Ryan Switzer left in the fourth quarter with a back injury.

UP NEXT

Rams: Host the Chicago Bears (4-5) next Sunday night.

Steelers: Travel to Cleveland to play the Browns (3-6) on Thursday. Pittsburgh is 7-0-1 in its past eight meetings with Cleveland.

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This story has been edited to delete a reference to an interception by Rudolph.

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

1st Quarter Summary
Time Team Play Detail Rams Steelers
14:46 Dante Fowler Jr. 26 yd opp fumble return (Greg Zuerlein kick) 7 0
00:34 James Washington 3 yd pass from Mason Rudolph (Chris Boswell kick) 7 7

2nd Quarter Summary
Time Team Play Detail Rams Steelers
01:44 Minkah Fitzpatrick 43 yd opp fumble return (Chris Boswell kick) 7 14

3rd Quarter Summary
Time Team Play Detail Rams Steelers
00:11 Greg Zuerlein 30 yd FG 10 14

4th Quarter Summary
Time Team Play Detail Rams Steelers
12:40 Aaron Donald safety 12 14
02:46 Chris Boswell 33 yd FG 12 17

Team Stats
  Los Angeles Pittsburgh
1st Downs 16 15
Total Yards 306 273
Passing 218 231
Passing Completions/Attempts 22-42 22-38
Yards/Pass 4.7 5.6
Rushing 88 42
Rushing Attempts 23 27
Yards/Rush 3.8 1.6
Turnovers 4 2
Fumbles Lost 1 2
Interceptions Thrown 3 0
Possession 28:20 31:40

Los Angeles Passing
Player CP ATT YDS AVG TD INT
Jared Goff 22 41 243 5.9 0 2
Johnny Hekker 0 1 0 0.0 0 1

Pittsburgh Passing
Player CP ATT YDS AVG TD INT
Mason Rudolph 22 38 242 6.4 1 0

Los Angeles Rushing
Player ATT YDS AVG TD LG
Todd Gurley II 12 73 6.1 0 22
Malcolm Brown 5 10 2.0 0 5
Darrell Henderson Jr. 4 4 1.0 0 3
Blake Bortles 1 1 1.0 0 1
Jared Goff 1 0 0.0 0 0

Pittsburgh Rushing
Player ATT YDS AVG TD LG
Jaylen Samuels 14 29 2.1 0 8
Tony Brooks-James 6 11 1.8 0 8
Vance McDonald 1 2 2.0 0 2
Trey Edmunds 4 1 0.2 0 3
Mason Rudolph 2 -1 -0.5 0 0

Los Angeles Receiving
Player REC YDS AVG TD LG
Robert Woods 7 95 13.6 0 24
Gerald Everett 8 68 8.5 0 17
Josh Reynolds 3 49 16.3 0 21
Tyler Higbee 3 22 7.3 0 12
Johnny Mundt 1 9 9.0 0 9
David Long Jr. 0 0 0.0 0
Todd Gurley II 0 0 0.0 0
Cooper Kupp 0 0 0.0 0

Pittsburgh Receiving
Player REC YDS AVG TD LG
James Washington 6 90 15.0 1 34
Diontae Johnson 4 64 16.0 0 30
JuJu Smith-Schuster 3 44 14.7 0 20
Trey Edmunds 2 14 7.0 0 8
Vance McDonald 3 11 3.7 0 9
Jaylen Samuels 3 11 3.7 0 5
Nick Vannett 1 8 8.0 0 8

Los Angeles Defense
Player TACKLES ASST SACKS SACK YDS
Cory Littleton 8 5 0 0
Troy Hill 7 0 0 0
Taylor Rapp 6 3 0 0
Aaron Donald 4 2 1 5
Nickell Robey-Coleman 4 0 0 0
Eric Weddle 4 3 0 0
Clay Matthews 3 0 1 5
Jalen Ramsey 3 0 0 0
Morgan Fox 1 0 1 1
Michael Brockers 1 2 0 0
Marqui Christian 1 1 0 0
Samson Ebukam 1 1 0 0
Dante Fowler Jr. 1 1 0 0
Troy Reeder 1 0 0 0
Greg Gaines 0 0 0 0
Tyler Higbee 0 0 0 0
Travin Howard 0 0 0 0
Sebastian Joseph-Day 0 1 0 0
David Long Jr. 0 0 0 0
Johnny Mundt 0 0 0 0
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo 0 0 0 0
Mike Thomas 0 0 0 0
Robert Woods 0 0 0 0

Pittsburgh Defense
Player TACKLES ASST SACKS SACK YDS
Mark Barron 10 0 0 0
Joe Haden 6 1 0 0
T.J. Watt 4 1 2 15
Terrell Edmunds 4 4 0 0
Bud Dupree 3 1 0 0
Minkah Fitzpatrick 3 1 0 0
Cameron Heyward 2 1 1 10
Javon Hargrave 2 5 1 0
Devin Bush 2 1 0 0
Steve Nelson 2 0 0 0
Tyson Alualu 1 3 0 0
Anthony Chickillo 1 0 0 0
Mike Hilton 1 1 0 0
Cameron Sutton 1 1 0 0
Vince Williams 1 2 0 0
Jordan Dangerfield 0 0 0 0
Trey Edmunds 0 0 0 0
Johnny Holton 0 0 0 0
Kam Kelly 0 0 0 0
Tyler Matakevich 0 0 0 0
JuJu Smith-Schuster 0 0 0 0
Robert Spillane 0 0 0 0

Los Angeles Interceptions
Player INT YDS TD
No interceptions.

Pittsburgh Interceptions
Player INT YDS TD
Minkah Fitzpatrick 1 14 0
Trey Edmunds 1 2 0
Joe Haden 1 0 0

Los Angeles Kick Returns
Player KR YDS AVG TD LNG
JoJo Natson 4 94 23.5 0 30

Pittsburgh Kick Returns
Player KR YDS AVG TD LNG
Ryan Switzer 1 20 20.0 0 20

Los Angeles Punt Returns
Player PR YDS AVG TD LNG
JoJo Natson 3 21 7.0 0 18

Pittsburgh Punt Returns
Player PR YDS AVG TD LNG
Diontae Johnson 3 22 7.3 0 14
Ryan Switzer 1 -1 -1.0 0 -1

Los Angeles Kicking
Player FGM FGA PCT LG
Greg Zuerlein 1 2 50.0 30

Pittsburgh Kicking
Player FGM FGA PCT LG
Chris Boswell 1 1 100.0 33

Los Angeles Punting
Player PUNTS YDS LG
Johnny Hekker 8 379 56

Pittsburgh Punting
Player PUNTS YDS LG
Jordan Berry 9 383 59