PITTSBURGH – The stage was set.
And the NFL’s last winless team was looking to capitalize in rainy, 39-degree weather on Sunday at Heinz Field to give first-year Lions coach Dan Campbell his first victory.
However, Detroit wasn’t quite able to upset the Steelers in Pittsburgh for the first time since 1955.
While some were predicting the Lions would become the first 0-17 team in NFL history after starting 0-8, the team continued to focus on the task in front of it and was able to at least end the 17-loss discussion.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Campbell said when asked how it felt to avoid 0-17. “Like I say, I don’t -- I’m in this twilight zone. I don’t know what this is really. And I’m sure I’ve been in a tie before as a player, but for some reason I can’t remember that.
“I’m just proud of the way they played. They snapped back. We were better than we were two weeks ago, and now what we have to do is improve from this week and find a way to beat Cleveland next week.”
Not only was Sunday the first time Detroit didn’t lose, it was also the first time Campbell got involved with the playcalling duties. He had direct communication with quarterback Jared Goff, although Campbell said it was a joint effort with offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn and others.
“Sometimes, I think when you’re able to get in the flow of the game when you’re the guy who’s calling it, it just helps to know exactly where to go,” Campbell said. “I don’t think it’s a big deal. There were still things I was giving to A. Lynn when he was calling. It’s just now I took the green dot [the headset so he can talk to Goff]. So, I’ll still grab some calls from them. I’ll use my own calls. It was a joint effort by all those guys.”
Rookie offensive lineman Penei Sewell echoed his coach’s feelings about the outcome, describing it as “definitely weird.”
“I kind of take this as a loss, because at the end of the day we didn’t get the dub,” Sewell said. “So, we’ve just got to keep grinding.”
Detroit’s ground game feasted on the Pittsburgh defense, with 229 total rushing yards. That offset Goff struggling with 114 passing yards.
“No, we didn’t care [about 0-17],” said Goff, who pushed through what he described as a strained oblique. “That was you guys. We didn’t care.”
Lions running back D'Andre Swift led the rushing charge with 130 yards, the most allowed by the Steelers in a game all season. It also marked Swift’s second-career 100-yard game. His 33 attempts and his yards were career highs.
“Nah, it don’t count as a win for me,” Swift said. “We’ve just got to find a way to win a game. It’s kind of like a loss, for real for real.”
The Lions had ample opportunities to seal a victory as Pittsburgh fumbled twice in overtime. And Ryan Santoso could have won the game with a 48-yard field goal, but the attempt fell well short.
“I don’t know how to feel either,” Goff said. “I think it’s my first tie, if I’m remembering correctly. Feels better than a loss, but still not where we need to be. It’s a step in the right direction.”