Brown's spectacular catch helps Steelers beat Packers, keep pace with Patriots


Brown's spectacular catch helps Steelers beat Packers, keep pace with Patriots

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers had the ball, 17 seconds and about 30 yards to go to avoid overtime against relentlessly resilient Green Bay.

Oh, and the Steelers had Antonio Brown. The Packers did not. And 17 seconds, 30ish yards provided entirely by Pittsburgh's do-everything wide receiver and one 53-yard field goal from Chris Boswell later, the Steelers were dancing on the logo at midfield following a 31-28 escape on Sunday night.

Pittsburgh (9-2) won its sixth straight behind Brown, who finished with 10 receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Yet the biggest grab was a 23-yard toe-tap along the sideline on the first snap of his team's last-gasp drive that put the Steelers near the fringe of Boswell's range.

At first, it looked as if Brown was out of bounds. Two officials conferred for more than 15 seconds before ruling Brown somehow managed to get both feet down. The call stood on replay.

A more conventional 14-yard reception on the next snap pushed the Steelers closer. Boswell's career-long blast slipped inside the left upright to keep Pittsburgh tied with New England atop the AFC and keep Brown's teammates searching for superlatives.

"It's one thing to do it in practice on a Thursday," guard David Decastro said. "To do it in that situation to get into field-goal range? I just, I guess how can you not be surprised?"

Brown wasn't.

"I knew right away I had it," Brown said. "I got my hand on the ball. I knew it was a catch."

One the Steelers needed to avoid perhaps another mystifying loss. Even though the Packers were missing quarterback Aaron Rodgers, running back Ty Montgomery and linebacker Clay Matthews, they pushed Pittsburgh to the limit.

Brett Hundley completed 17 of 26 for 245 yards and three touchdowns for the Packers (5-6) in his best start since taking over when Rodgers went on injured reserve with a broken collarbone last month. Jamaal William ran for 66 yards, including a 4-yard leap into the end zone with 2:02 that tied it at 28.

"I just want to give this team an opportunity to win," Hundley said. "And I feel like we were really close."

Hundley actually had a chance to pull off a Rodgers-like winning drive. But Green Bay went three-and-out after getting the ball with 1:20 to go. The Packers punted it back to Pittsburgh with 17 seconds left. Just enough time, it turns out, for Brown to do his thing and for Boswell to do his.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and special teams coordinator Danny Smith didn't approach Boswell before Boswell headed onto the field to kick into the tricky closed end of Heinz Field. That's not what they do.

"I don't tell them numbers, they don't ask me numbers," Boswell said. "If we need it, we need it and I kick it. That's about it."

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 351 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Le'Veon Bell ran for 95 yards and added another 88 yards receiving but also had a fumble that stalled a drive early in the fourth quarter. The Steelers outgained Green Bay 462-307 and had the ball for nearly 34 minutes.

Yet the Packers counterpunched repeatedly behind Hundley, who threw touchdown passes of 39, 54 and 55 yards then later guided Green Bay on a 12-play, 77-yard drive that was nearly enough to send the game to overtime.


"It was a close game and it came down to the wire and it hurts when you don't finish it off," Green Bay wide receiver Davante Adams said. "I think this team can rally together and finish strong."


The usually taciturn (at least when cameras are rolling) Tomlin raised eyebrows during a pregame interview in which he stressed he believes his team can win the Super Bowl and allowed there's a part of him thinking about New England's visit to Heinz Field on Dec. 17.

"We've got a good football team," Tomlin said. "I've got a great deal of confidence in them. Everybody in America knows it's a big game. We couldn't deny it if we wanted to."


The Packers were up 21-14 and had the ball in Pittsburgh territory in the third quarter when head coach Mike McCarthy sent Mason Crosby out to attempt a 57-yard field goal, a risky move at best let alone in perhaps the hardest stadium in the league to kick.

Crosby's low knuckler was never close and the Steelers took advantage of the short field to even the score at 21 on the first of Brown's two touchdown grabs.

"We needed points," McCarthy said. "You look at the flow of the game ... that's the right decision."


With Steelers rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster out with a hamstring problem, Martavis Bryant and had his most productive game since returning from a year-long drug suspension that cost him the entire 2016 season. Bryant finished with 99 total yards and his first touchdown since Week 2.


Packers: Host Tampa Bay next Sunday. Green Bay is 0-3 at home since Rogers was injured.

Steelers: At Cincinnati on Monday, Dec. 4. Pittsburgh beat the Bengals 29-14 on Oct. 22.


Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

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Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.


Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

The Patriots have agreed to re-sign offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, his agent Scott Casterline confirmed on Twitter.  Waddle hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year began and made a visit to the Cowboys earlier this week. In the end, though, he chose to return to the team that claimed him off of waivers at the end of the 2015 season.

Waddle, who turns 27 in July, appeared in 12 games last season for the Patriots. He was the first right tackle the Patriots turned to when Marcus Cannon suffered an ankle injury mid-season against the Chargers. He ended up playing 51 snaps against the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram without allowing a sack. He then started the next three games against the Broncos, Raiders and Dolphins and held star rushers Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Cameron Wake -- all of whom rush primarily off of the offensive right -- without a sack. 

Injuries forced Waddle (380 snaps on the season) to split the right tackle position with Cameron Fleming (543 snaps), but he was the primary backup when healthy. Waddle started the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans but suffered a knee injury and was removed for Fleming. 

Both Fleming and Waddle visited the Cowboys this week, and the fact that Waddle has re-signed with the Patriots may impact Fleming's decision moving forward. 

The Patriots went to great lengths to build tackle depth last season, and adding Waddle to the roster helps them retain some of that depth after losing their left tackle, Nate Solder, to the Giants via free agency. Waddle could be an option on the left side, but the vast majority of his work since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2013 has been on the right side. 

The Patriots now have Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Cole Croston, Tony Garcia and Andrew Jelks on their depth chart at tackle. Croston, Garcia and Jelks are all headed into their second years as pros. Croston remained on the 53-man roster all season -- an indication that the Patriots liked him enough not to expose him to the waiver system -- but did not see meaningful snaps. Garcia and Jelks both missed the entirety of the 2017 season on reserve lists. 

Once the Patriots lost Solder to the Giants, it seemed to be of paramount importance that the Patriots re-sign either Waddle or Fleming. Behind Cannon, there were simply too many question marks not to have one return. The Patriots could opt to draft a tackle, but this is considered an average year at that position in that there are few ready-made NFL players and several developmental types.

Before the Super Bowl last season, I asked offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia how the team was able to manage offensively with backups at right tackle for much of the season. 

"It's not like [Fleming and Waddle are] not good players," Scarnecchia said. "They are good players. Their skill set seemed to fit that position pretty well. They have the traits that we covet. And they're both really smart guys, very willing learners, and they're both driven to be good and they want to play good. And I think all those things have manifested themselves when they've been out there playing. And we've been very, very pleased with what they've done for us this year, essentially splitting that position."

Asked about the aspects of the game the Patriots worked on with both Waddle and Fleming last year, Scarnecchia said, "For us it transcends everything. Obviously run-blocking and pass-blocking. They're both good at those things. Are they great at those things? No. But they've been able to steadily improve over the last two years to the point where we put them out there and no one's worried. And it's been that way the whole season after Marcus got hurt. Yeah they've done a nice job for us."