Pittsburgh — It happened in the first quarter. Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff reared back to uncork a rare deep shot and felt a pain in his side.
It altered a throw that would have likely been a touchdown to Kalif Raymond had it been on target. The receiver had two strides on the nearest defender. Instead, it wound up well short, allowing Steelers cornerback Joe Haden to recover and break up the pass.
Goff grimaced after the incompletion, a sentiment that could have easily been translated as the agony of a blown opportunity, but after two run plays and a punt, he went to the sideline to be evaluated for an injury.
“Yeah, on that play there, I’d describe it as probably a strained oblique,” Goff said. “Just kind of nagged me a little bit throughout the game. I thought I was fine to stay in there and felt like it didn’t affect me. It will be a little sore tomorrow, but I’ll be fine.”
The team obviously won’t know more without advanced testing, but Goff continued to be evaluated on the sideline throughout the game and the Lions never got close to pulling him from the lineup.
“I kept talking to our trainers, talking to him, talking to (quarterback coach Mark) Brunell and it was, hey, the consensus was leave him in there,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “He was good to go, he wanted to go, he felt good enough to do what he needed to do, so that’s what we did, we stuck with him.”
In hindsight, it can be argued it was a questionable decision by Campbell. Goff labored throughout the contest, finishing the first half with just 11 passing yards. And at the end of regulation, it wasn’t much better. Through four quarters, he had completed 11 of his 22 throws for 54 yards. It wasn’t until overtime he showed a little life, more than doubling his production on the day with 60 yards in the 10-minute extra frame.
Like the player Goff replaced in Detroit, Matthew Stafford, the current Lions quarterback is well known for his durability and toughness. He’s played through numerous injuries during his six-year career, missing just one game last season after requiring thumb surgery late in the season.
And after this one, a 16-16 tie with the Steelers, Goff shrugged off the suggestion this injury impacted his ability to do his job effectively.
“I would say it was much more weather than anything to do with me,” he said. “I felt like I was capable. Yeah, it hurt, but it wasn’t a hindrance.”
Campbell didn’t fully agree. He acknowledged Goff’s injury did impact the play-calling, although he couldn’t put a percentage on it when contrasted against the inclement conditions. Combined, the factors led the Lions to run the ball a season-high 39 times, well ahead of the 28 runs they had against the Los Angeles Rams last month.
“I think it was both,” Campbell said. “It was weather and it was a little bit of him. It was both, really. We had an idea that the weather was going to go this way. Particularly last night, it was confirmed. We were set up to do that, if need be. But I don’t think we necessarily saw it being quite that much.”
Beyond Goff, the Lions dealt with a number of additional injuries against the Steelers.
Rookie running back Jermar Jefferson was carted to the locker room in the first half after suffering an ankle injury at the end of a 28-yard touchdown run and safety Tracy Walker sustained a concussion in the third quarter while tackling Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph on a scramble.
Additionally, the Lions saw offensive tackle Matt Nelson, who was serving as a blocking tight end in this contest, exit with an ankle injury, while rookie cornerback Jerry Jacobs left with a groin issue.