The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't quite ready to say they're in the playoff hunt.
They're also not quite ready to say they're out of it either.
Ben Roethlisberger passed for 367 yards and four touchdowns in a 37-27 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday, including two in the final 5 minutes as the Steelers (4-6) rallied to win their second straight and keep the unlikely notion of a run at a postseason berth alive.
At least for another week.
"We've got to keep this thing going," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "Our margin for error is nonexistent right now. We feel good about this team and we're going to keep grinding."
So do the Lions (6-4), who played brilliantly for 15 minutes and befuddled for the other 45 to fall back into a tie with Chicago for first-place in the NFC North. Matthew Stafford threw for 362 yards and two touchdowns to Calvin Johnson but struggled in the second half as Detroit struggled late.
Stafford completed just 3 of 16 passes in the second half, none of them to Johnson.
"I missed some guys," Stafford said. "We had drops. We had miscues. We had all sorts of stuff that we can't do on the road against a good team."
Even if the Steelers have hardly resembled one for long stretches of this unpredictable season. Five things we learned as Pittsburgh took another tentative step toward digging out of a massive hole while the Lions fell flat.
ROETHLISBERGER KNOWS WHAT HE'S DOING: The Steelers opted to use an up-tempo, no-huddle offense to keep the Lions from substituting frequently. The plan included giving Roethlisberger the freedom to call the plays. Pittsburgh responded by posting its highest point total in more than two years behind a quarterback who insists he's not nearly ready to give up.
"We are out to play every game like it is the most important," Roethlisberger said. I told you guys awhile ago that I wasn't going to quit. There was no quit in me or from anyone on the team today."
JIM SCHWARTZ LIKES TO GAMBLE: Up four points in the fourth quarter, the Lions could have attempted a short field goal to pad their lead. Instead, coach Jim Schwartz called for a fake. Rookie punter Sam Martin, who also serves as the holder, tried to gain the 5 yards he needed by rushing over the right side. He fumbled after getting hit by Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon and Pittsburgh took over.
Looking back, Schwartz doesn't think he made a mistake.
"I don't regret anything that happens in the game," Schwartz said. "We're going to do our very best to win the football game. We didn't make enough plays to win this one, including that one."
PITTSBURGH'S DEFENSE LIVES: The Lions posted the highest second-quarter total in team history when they scored 27 points. Stafford hit Johnson for touchdowns of 79 and 19 yards and did it with ease. Yet a late stand forced Detroit to settle for a field goal at the end of the first half and set the tone for a second half in which the Lions could muster little.
"We knew they'd make plays and get yards," Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark said. "We just wanted to make plays and stop them when it counted and we were able to do that."
ANTONIO BROWN MIGHT BE MINI-TRON: Johnson might be the best wide receiver in the NFL, but Brown is having the best season of any receiver in the league. He finished with seven receptions for 147 yards and two scores, including a crucial third-down grab that kick-started the game-winning touchdown drive.
"We knew run after the catch was going to be key to this game," Brown said. "We knew their pass rush was going to try and heat us up."
Brown's 74 receptions are a career high and lead the league.
STAFFORD IS A RECORD HOLDER: Stafford's lights out second quarter allowed him to climb a major rung in the Lions' record book. He surpassed Hall of Famer Bobby Layne as the team's all-time leading passer and has 16,005 yards passing in his career, more than Layne's total of 15,711. Stafford's touchdown pass to Johnson was also the 100th of his career.
The former No. 1 overall pick only needed 55 games to reach the milestone, the fourth-fastest quarterback to do that in league history.
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