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3 things we learned about the Rams

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ST. LOUIS — The Pittsburgh Steelers won a game but lost a quarterback, at least for the time being, after defeating the St. Louis Rams 12-6.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was knocked out of the game with a left knee injury with 5:35 remaining in third quarter. Rams safety Mark Barron was blocked and rolled into Roethlisberger’s leg on a sack. Roethlisberger was on the turf for several minutes before limping off the field.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin had little information on Roethlisberger, except to say he was “being evaluated” and would have an MRI after returning to Pittsburgh. When pressed if there were any X-rays or anything more, Tomlin said he didn’t have anything more, and added, “I promise I’ll give you more when I have it.”

Before leaving the game, Roethlisberger completed 20 of 24 passes for 192 yards with an interception. He had entered the game needing 223 yards to reach 40,000 for his career.

“This was a good, tough ballgame,” Tomlin said. “It’s good to come out on top of those. … We have to be able to go on the road in a hostile environment be able to win. We can check those two things off today and hopefully we can grow from it.”

When it was noted the large Steelers contingent in the crowd that forced the Rams to go to a silent count in the red zone meaning it wasn’t that hostile, Tomlin smiled and said, “The Rams’ front had something to do with it being hostile. It might not necessarily mean the fans. It might just mean how they were playing. I have a lot of respect for those guys and knew it going in.”

That defense sacked Roethlisberger and backup Mike Vick five times, and limited running back Le’Veon Bell to 62 yards on 19 carries. Bell was playing his first game of the season after missing the first two under league suspension.

For the Rams, following an opening-week 34-31 overtime win over Seattle, they have lost to Washington and Pittsburgh while scoring a total of 16 points and one touchdown.

What We Learned About the Rams:

1. The running game is struggling. The Rams totaled 71 yards on 18 attempts against Pittsburgh, yet even that is deceiving. Wide receiver Chris Givens had a 24-yard run on an end-around and quarterback Nick Foles had a 10-yard scramble on third-and-19. One of the only positives was a 12-yard run by Benny Cunningham. Aside from that, Tre Mason and Todd Gurley had little running room. Both averaged less than two yards per carry against the Steelers with Mason gaining 16 yards on nine attempts (1.8 average) and Gurley, in his NFL debut, nine yards on six runs (1.5 average). Said Foles, “Yeah, it one of those things where we have to be able to (run the ball better). We have talented running backs. Our O-line’s doing a great job week-to-week of just working hard together and grinding. Once we get the run game going better, it’s going to really open up a lot of things.”

2. Third down has been brutal for the Rams. They are 10-for-33 for the season and have been 4-for-22 the last two games. Against the Steelers, they were 2-for-10. Even in the season-opening win over Seattle, they were 1-for-5 entering the fourth quarter, but converted all four third downs in the game-tying touchdown drive. Said Foles, “We have to convert third downs. We have to sustain drives. It’s something that we have to stay positive about.” The Rams entered the game with just 101 offensive plays (50.5 per game) and had just 49 against the Steelers.

3. They still struggle catching the football. In the season opener, there were no drops. In the last two games, there have been seven. There was none bigger against the Steelers than when tight end Lance Kendricks dropped a likely touchdown pass around the Pittsburgh 13-yard line in the third quarter. The score was 9-3 at the time, and Kendricks had a clear path to the end zone on a play that began at the Pittsburgh 46-yard line. Kendricks scored the game-tying touchdown in the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks, catching the ball at a similar spot on the field. Said Fisher, “We had three drops today and you’re in a field position game like that where there’s potential swings, or potential additional first downs, those are hard to overcome. We didn’t drop them on purpose, but we need to make that play.” For his part, Kendricks claimed he didn’t see the ball, until the last second, losing it in the lights. “I couldn’t see it coming down at all,” he said. “It’s tough because those are the plays we have to make to win the game. If I could take that back I’d catch it a hundred times over. I just lost it in the lights. It’s hard to keep track of it when the ball was high in the air, but I still have to come down with it. No excuses. I still have to find a way to catch it.”

Etc.:

–RB Todd Gurley made his NFL debut against the Steelers, but found little running room. He played on three of the Rams’ nine possessions and carried six times for nine yards and caught one pass for five yards. He admitted to not having his explosiveness yet, but said, “It definitely felt good to get in the game. I’ll try to get things rolling next week.”

–WR Brian Quick, who hasn’t been on the injury report all season, was inactive for the third time. Quick battled back during a long rehab from a serious shoulder injury suffered last season, but hasn’t been among the five receivers active for each game. It’s a combination of the need for rookie Bradley Marquez to be on special teams, and the feeling that Quick isn’t ready yet to carry a full load of plays.

–LB James Laurinaitis was credited with eight tackles according to press-box statistics. Even if coaches adjust the number, he will still be the franchise’s all-time leading tackler. He entered the game with 914, one behind Hall-of-Famer DT Merlin Olsen.

–DT Aaron Donald had another outstanding game. Three of his four tackles were for losses, and he also added a sack. He leads the team with 3.5 sacks after three games.


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