By Daniel Benjamin
The Pittsburgh Steelers scored 17 unanswered in the second half to earn a 20-17 come-from-behind victory over the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Field on Sunday afternoon.
Pittsburgh (7-2) has won four straight games, though picking up the fourth win on Sunday was not as easy as expected, so we have to give Indianapolis (3-7) a lot of credit. The Colts, who snapped a three-game losing the week before, scored the game’s first 10 points. They held the Steelers scoreless until 30 seconds left in the first half. The Colts then scored on the first possession of the second half to go up 17-3.
With the victory, the Steelers lead the AFC North by three games as both Baltimore and Cincinnati lost this week. The Steelers also assured themselves of another week atop of the AFC playoff standings.
The Steelers offense was atrocious and looked unorganized at times in the first half of the game. On the second play of the game, Roethlisberger threw a less-than-perfect pass on a deep throw that was picked off, marking his seventh interception of the year on throws of 15-plus yards. Roethlisberger was highly inaccurate in the first half, completing 6-of-13 throws as the offensive line didn’t do a good job protecting him. Big Ben also dropped a shot-gun snap during the Steelers’ most productive and last drive of the first half. Though he did comeback and hit Antonio Brown on a 10-yard pass on third down to set them up for a field goal.
The QB turned things around in the second half. He was particularly sterling in the Steelers’ opening second half possession, engineering an eight-play, 78-yard drive that ended in a seven-yard touchdown pas to JuJu Smith-Schuster. On the Steelers’ second touchdown, Roethlisberger did a nice job buying time in the pocket, and when it looked like he was going to run for a possible score, he kept his head up and found tight end Vance McDonald wide open in the right corner of the end zone.
Roethlisberger completed 19-of-31 passes for 236 yards along with two touchdowns overall. However, none of his completions were more important than his last, when Brown turned a short pass over the middle and turned it into a 32-yard gain. The play set up Boswell for his game winner.
Smith-Schuster was once again the star of the offense. The 20-year-old rookie hauled in five passes for 97-yards – both team highs. He has consistently made the plays that he needs to make this year. Smith-Schuster now has scored a touchdown in three straight games.
Brown only had three catches on seven targets, but he came up big as usual while running back Le’Veon Bell topped the century mark in total yards for the third time in the last four contests.
The Steelers defensive unit started off strong, holding the Colts to eight yards following Reothlisberger’s interception. In fact, the Steelers limited the Colts to just 32-yards of total offense through the first quarter. But cornerback Joe Haden went down with a leg injury late in the quarter, which is when issues arose with missed assignments and missed tackles.
On the first play of the second quarter, Colts wide receiver Donte Moncrief beat cornerback Artie Burns with a double-move and reeled in a 60-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jacoby Brissett. On the very next possession, the Steelers had a chance to force the Colts into a three-and-out punt. But, cornerback Williams Gay and linebacker Ryan Shazier missed tackles resulting in reserve running back Marlon Mack to gain 11 yards on the pass play, which was good enough for a first down. The Colts turned those miscues into three points.
Blown coverage is how the Colts got their second touchdown of the game. This time, the Colts attacked cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, who had taken Haden’s place. Somehow wide receiver Chester Rogers got loose and took a long pass from Brissett 61 yards to the house for a 17-3 lead. It was a definite blown coverage, though the question is whether it was Sensabaugh’s fault or Mike Mitchell’s miscues, as those two collided attempting to tackle Rogers.
The Steelers hunkered down after the Colts’ score, limiting them to 19 total yards offense over their last five offensive possessions. The Steelers, who had just one sack in the first half, were able to get more pressure on Brissett. As a result, the defense came away with an acrobatic interception by Shazier and two more sacks. The interception led to the Steelers second touchdown.
Overall, the Steelers’ defense limited the Colts to 267 total yards of offense – 121 coming on two plays. They also held the Colts’ anemic running attack to 2.4 yards per carry.
Special Teams: D
The special teams unit, like the offensive and defensive units, had their moments of highs and lows. While Boswell made the game-winner, he pushed a 37-yard attempt to the right on the team’s second-to-last offensive series. The missed field goal attempt ended his streak of consecutive makes and 12 and marked his third miss of the season. Boswell also had his lone extra point attempt blocked.
On the other hand, punter Jordan Berry had his best game of the season, burying the Colts inside the 20 on three of his six punts. The Colts only had 17 punt return yards.
The special teams were responsible for three of the Steelers’ nine penalties. Although Roethlisberger made up for the delay of game penalty on the two point conversion by connecting with Martavis Bryant from five-yards farther out.
The Steelers didn’t look like they were ready to play in the first half. The coaching staff did a nice job of making adjustments, especially with the loss of Haden and Mitchell in the secondary.
Offensively, the Steelers once again tried to work the ball down the field and get Bryant involved in the game a variety of ways. Also, they involved Bell a lot in the offense Bell had 25 carries and five receptions.
Pittsburgh has a short week. The Steelers host the Tennessee Titans on Thursday. The Titans are coming off a 24-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals for their fourth win in a row.