PITTSBURGH -- It was the type of loss, in the kind of circumstance, that could fracture a team.
The Los Angeles Rams' defense played superb, forcing two turnovers and scoring nine points, but the offense couldn't muster any momentum in a 17-12 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday.
The loss dropped the Rams to 5-4, third place in a surging NFC West, and they appear to be falling behind in a tight race for a wild-card playoff spot a season after reaching the Super Bowl last season.
After the game, however, Rams players vowed in a quiet visitors locker room that they would stick together and would not let Sunday set the tone for the rest of their season.
"You don't point fingers at nobody," defensive tackle Aaron Donald saud. "We lost as a team."
Said quarterback Jared Goff: "We're in a place where we're still good. We've got some time to make up some ground."
Time is not on the Rams' side, though, with seven games remaining and a schedule that includes the AFC North-leading Baltimore Ravens and division matchups against the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, plus a trip to Dallas to face the Cowboys.
"All we are going to do is continue to fight and figure out what we can do to get better," said Rams coach Sean McVay, who was 10-0 against AFC teams in the regular season before falling to the Steelers. "That's everybody to a man."
The Rams' offense has regressed from its Super Bowl form and continued down an unnerving path Sunday, as the team's offensive line was forced to shift personnel when center Brian Allen and later right tackle Rob Havenstein were lost to knee injuries.
Goff completed 22 of 41 passes for 243 yards, with two interceptions, as the offense scored only three points behind a 30-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein. Goff also lost a fumble that the Steelers recovered and returned for a touchdown to take a 14-7 lead late in the first half.
A game after Cooper Kupp caught seven passes for a career-best 220 yards, Kupp did not have a single reception, though he was targeted four times.
"They doubled him, at times," Goff said. "They did a lot of different things."
Todd Gurley rushed for 73 yards in 12 carries, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. However, in what has become a new normal this season, he continued to share the load with backups Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson, who were far less effective, as they combined for 14 yards in nine carries.
"No, not really," said Gurley, when asked if he wanted the ball more or expected more carries, especially in the second half. "I'm kind of used to it."
The defense, since trading in Week 7 for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, has proven itself as a top unit.
On Sunday, they held the Steelers to 42 rushing yards and 273 total yards, while sacking quarterback Mason Rudolph three times.
Outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., recovered a fumble on the opening possession and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown. Later in the first half, cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman stripped receiver James Washington and linebacker Cory Littleton recovered. However, the takeaway ultimately resulted in Goff's sack fumble. And early in the fourth quarter, Donald and Clay Matthews Jr., who was playing in his first game since undergoing jaw surgery after Week 5, combined to sack Rudolph for a safety.
Donald was proud of the defense's performance but said the team could not concern itself with the division and playoff race.
"We just have to try to play ball," Donald said. "We go week-to-week trying to find ways to win games. That is what it comes down to."