Ice pack wrapped around his ribs, running back Trey Edmunds was still flying high from a combination of football adrenaline and good old-fashioned pain in his midsection.
His torso was aching, even when he intercepted that fake punt pass, even when he made that fourth-down catch that might’ve been the most significant offensive play this side of the one that actually put points on the board for the Steelers in their 17-12 grind of a win.
“Man, I’d be lying if I said you don’t feel it at all,” Edmunds said with a grin. “Adrenaline does play a big part. You just try to go, and I was just trying to be out there for this team and help engineer this victory.”
For the second week in a row, Edmunds did his part to turn a couple knobs — not bad for a guy who entered the season as a roster cut, practice squad returner and fourth-string tailback, all while not even being the most prominent Steeler from his own family.
But this Edmunds just keeps being used as a utility man, from his four (unsuccessful) carries in the running game to spell Jaylen Samuels, to his two receptions for 14 yards, to his special teams readiness that keeps popping up in different ways. Last Sunday, it was a big tackle on a safety punt that led to a forced fumble. This time around, it was an interception, an opportunity that seldom presents itself to offensive players and comes even rarer to ball-carriers.
“I’m all for winning,” Edmunds said. “Whatever it takes. If it takes me making more plays, I’m all for that, and we’re going right now.”
Edmunds was right where he needed to be when the Rams busted out a fake punt on fourth-and-1 at their 29 midway through the third quarter. As the Steelers punt return team shifted into a defensive formation, punter Johnny Hekker also moved up, took the snap and looked to pass to move the chains. But instead, Edmunds picked off a throw that wobbled out as Hekker was hit.
An NFL running back hadn’t picked off a pass since 1988.
“We saw that play on film hundreds of times,” Edmunds said. “We knew he was capable of making that throw.”
The Rams haven’t faked a punt hundreds of times, but they did just have Hekker complete a pass two games ago for 23 yards. Four possessions later, when Mike Tomlin elected to try his own fourth-and-1 conversion from the Steelers 34, Mason Rudolph rolled right and found Edmunds for a 6-yard connection.
That drive ended with a Chris Boswell field goal, and when the Rams got the ball back, their fourth-and-10 heave into the end zone got broken up by the other Edmunds brother, Terrell. Decent consolation, considering Trey now has more interceptions this season and the same amount as the 2018 first-round safety has in his career.
“I might mention it to him when we get to the house,” Trey said.
There was little reason to be optimistic about the Steelers’ chances of covering up Rams star slot receiver Cooper Kupp. He was coming off seven catches for 220 yards, had gone over 100 yards five times and hadn’t caught fewer than four passes in a game this season.
And yet, the Steelers help Kupp to 0 for 0 for 0 on only four targets from Jared Goff.
“Is that true?” Tomlin asked afterward when it was pointed out that Kupp went catchless. “We doubled him a lot. He’s the No. 1 receiver in the NFL on third down, so all our third-down discussions started there.”
Most of the Rams’ third-down discussions ended poorly. They were just 1 of 14 on those conversions after entering the week with the 14th-highest rate in the NFL at 40.4%.
The JuJu and Jalen Show
It was a wide receiver-cornerback matchup that was juicy on paper, but didn’t materialize into much production on either side. Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey — perhaps the only acquisition that rivals Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Steelers in this NFL season — versus JuJu Smith-Schuster, itching to break out offensively during a quiet season.
Smith-Schuster was held in check by the brash All-Pro by way of the Jaguars, hauling in three passes for 44 yards on six targets. Ramsey had three tackles, but apparently most of his production came from his mouth, which is no surprise with him.
“It was cool, man. He talks a lot. He talks so much,” Smith-Schuster said. “He said so many cuss words I’d never heard of, and I’m 22 years old.”
Smith-Schuster had faced Ramsey when he was in Jacksonville, but with Antonio Brown no longer in the picture, it didn’t have the same feel to it with the 2016 fifth overall pick shadowing him on nearly every snap. Ramsey did get called for two pass interference penalties, once on Smith-Schuster and once on rookie Diontae Johnson.
“He’s a good player. It’s a lot different than him being at Jacksonville where he got to do what he wants, and over here he has to pretty much do what he’s told, you know?” Smith-Schuster said. “So, it’s different, but it was a great experience. I wish we’d got more balls thrown at us, but it’s hard when you’re getting double-teamed.”
Wide receiver Ryan Switzer left the game with a back injury and outside linebacker Ola Adeniyi has a hip injury. Both are being evaluated, according to Tomlin. ... Rams pass-rusher Dante Fowler had the first fumble return for a touchdown against the Steelers since Chicago’s Julius Peppers in 2013. ... Rudolph became the ninth quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to throw a touchdown in each of his first seven games, and first since Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston in 2015; he joined Ben Roethlisberger as the second passer in franchise history to do so.
Brian Batko: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrianBatko.