Pittsburgh's coverage was completely soft on New England's opening drive of the second half. It seemed like every time Tom Brady hit one of his targets, the receiver had three to five yards of cushion to accumulate yards after the catch. After a great play fake from Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski was wide open in the flat for his second touchdown of the evening, a 9-yarder. A few minutes into the third quarter, the Patriots had increased their lead to 17-3.
The next Steelers drive was U-G-L-Y. Second down was some kind of hideous delayed handoff that went nowhere, then Roethlisberger was sacked on third down. It was the fourth time this evening New England has gotten to the quarterback. The offense was (deservedly) booed off the field.
Pittsburgh's defense showed up on the next drive. James Harrison drew a holding call on first down, as per his usual, then the unit sniffed out a screen to Wes Welker. Tom Brady threw two rare incompletions on second and third downs, culminating a Patriots three-and-out.
Pittsburgh's best offensive play of the night so far came on a 38-yard pass interference penalty; Mike Wallace, who's had a quiet evening through three quarters (two catches for 17 yards), was streaking down the seam but got pulled down by Patriots defenders. The Steelers ran three plays, all passes, from the nine-yard line and couldn't connect on any of them. Then, after that missed opportunity, Jeff Reed blew it on a 26-yard field goal. That's basically an extra point attempt, so if that's not a sign that Pittsburgh doesn't deserve to win this game, I don't know what is.
Brady hit his young speedster, Brandon Tate, on a 45-yard post on New England's following drive. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis helped keep the chains moving, and he's been surprisingly effective through three quarters: 53 yards, 5.9 ypc. Soon thereafter, Brady scored from three yards out on a quarterback keeper. Inexplicably, newly acquired kicker Shane Graham missed the ensuing extra point. I can only assume he was trying to make Reed feel better about himself.
After three quarters, the Patriots lead, 23-3.