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O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: What tie in Pittsburgh means for Lions

They didn't win, and they didn't lose.

What they got was another step in what has been a strange and unfulfilling journey for the Detroit Lions this season.

The Lions battled the Pittsburgh Steelers on even terms for 60 minutes of regulation time and 10 more in overtime to emerge with a 16-16 tie.

"It's weird," is how quarterback Jared Goff summed up his feeling in his postgame press conference about the tie after playing with a painful injury that seemed to limit his play.

The outcome guarantees that they will not go 0-17, but that was slight satisfaction. They had chances to win and failed to finish the job.

This week's Monday Countdown looks at what the tie means to the Lions, if anything, and how Goff played through the injury. There's also a look at how the Lions prepared to face the Steelers after finding out that Ben Roethlisberger would not play.

There's also takeaways on offense, defense and special teams, what's trending and the bottom line.

We start with what the tie means:

1. Head coach Dan Campbell's view: You play to win, and no one loses sight of that, least of all Campbell.

But this was no ordinary game, and certainly no ordinary opponent.

The Lions won the battle of the running game, with 229 yards on the ground to 145 for the Steelers. They had two fumble recoveries and an interception and did not have a turnover.

None of that changes the score. But things are judged differently for a team like the Lions -- with an 0-8 won-loss record going into the game and in a massive rebuilding program.

"Here's the positives," Campbell said in answer to a question at the end of his postgame press conference.

"That's a good football team. That's a winning football team. They've done it right for a long time. They play a physical bully type brand of football.

"We went toe to toe with them. That's what it says. I think you do take something away from that.

"We didn't win, but we didn't lose either.

"All you can ask for is improvement, and we improved. We did."

2. Goff's injury: It seemed clear early in the game that something was bothering him.

He completed four of seven passes for 11 yards in the first half. For the full game, he completed 14 of 25 passes for 114 yards, no TDs and no interceptions, with an average of 4.56 yards per attempt.

Goff could be seen warming up between possessions, and even during time outs when the offense was on the field.

Goff downplayed the thought that he was bothered by an injury, but Campbell said he gave some thought to replacing him.

The injury was to Goff's oblique. Campbell said he talked to Goff, the training staff and others, and decided to ride it out with him.

"I thought about it," he said. "We hung in there. We trust him."

It's certainly something that needs to be watched from now until next week's road game against the Browns.

3. Replacing a legend: The Lions found out with everyone else with the announcement Saturday night that Roethlisberger would not play because of COVID-19 protocols.

Mason Rudolph, a backup with nine previous starts in four seasons with the Steelers, started in place of Roethlisberger.

Rudolph threw for 242 yards, one TD and one interception.

The Lions did not make any major changes in their game plan because of the QB change, Campbell said.

"Not much," he said. "It really didn't alter what we had to do. We were prepared for other things knowing Ben was down."

4. Takeaways, offense:

  • On the ground: It was the Lions best running game of the season, and they did most of the damage in the first half, getting 171 of their 229 yards.
  • In the air: The Lions had only five passing first downs, to 13 for Steelers -- who were playing in the same wind and rain.
  • The beef: The Lions often used an extra offensive lineman or tight end -- or both -- to provide blocking for the run game or protection for Goff. It worked better for the run game than it did for Goff. He was rushed hard all game. The Steelers had four sacks and six hits.

5. Takeaways, defense:

  • Learning curve: Cornerback Amani Oruwariye was flagged for interference early in the game when he didn't turn his head to locate the ball while in coverage. Later in the game, he turned his head and broke up the pass. With no call from the refs.
  • Stats line: Oruwariye had a good game overall: A tackle for loss, two passes defended, a fumble recovery and seven tackles, tied for second most on the team.
  • Hands off: Rudolph through 50 passes without getting sacked.

6. Takeaways, special teams:

  • Returns: Another good game for Kalif Raymond: An average of 23.7 yards on three punt returns.
  • Coverage: It was good, as usual. The Steelers averaged nine yards on six punt returns and 17.5 yards on two kicks.
  • Kicking: A missed extra point in the first half, and a missed field goal in overtime cost the Lions. Neither kick was close.

7. Trending:

  • Up: D’Andre Swift. A 130-yard rushing game could be the start of a big second half.
  • Down: One target, no catches for tight end T.J. Hockenson. Not the game he wanted after the bye.
  • Even: A tie was better than a loss for the Lions, but I bet they'll think about how they should have won the game -- same as in those losses to the Ravens and Vikings on last-play field goals.

8. Bottom line: The Lions have played their best ball against good teams -- Ravens, Vikings, Rams, Steelers.

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