By Danny Cox
The Pittsburgh Steelers learned what was plaguing them, and it was poor play on both sides of the ball. They’ve learned to adjust without some of the players that have been injured for weeks, and back-ups have stepped in and stepped up. Last week, the Steelers broke their four-game losing streak and this week, they started a new winning streak. Strong running and a couple of intense goal line stands led to a big 28-7 Thanksgiving Day victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
Ben Roethlisberger played very well as he completed 14-of-20 pass attempts for 221 yards and three touchdowns. Only five players caught passes on Thursday night, but Big Ben’s eyes were focused on Antonio Brown. All three touchdowns landed in Brown’s hands as he caught five balls for 91 yards. Luckily, though, the Steelers didn’t need to rely entirely on the passing game.
Running back Le’Veon Bell stepped it up against with another huge game. He carried the ball 23 times for a massive 120 yards and one touchdown. That’s 266 yards in the last two games, which is almost as much as he’s gained in the other six games he played this season.
There is no doubt that the defense of the Steelers won the game for them on Thursday night. On two separate occasions, the Colts lined up on the goal line and used all four downs to try to get into the end zone. Both times—all eight downs—the Steelers D prevented the Colts from scoring a single point, and that contributed heavily to their big defeat.
Pittsburgh racked up three sacks against Andrew Luck’s back-up Scott Tolzien, who also ended up throwing two interceptions. He fumbled the ball as well, but ended up recovering it. Safety Mike Mitchell had a great game for the Steelers with seven tackles; he also secured one the game’s interceptions and ended up returning it 26 yards.
All around, this was an almost perfect performance by the Steelers defense, and they just need to keep it up for the remainder of the season.
Special Teams: B-
The Steelers didn’t have much of a return game and had no yardage at all except for one kick return by Sammie Coates for 21 yards. The Colts did much better as they had two kick returns of 43 and 24 yards, which helped set up their offense nicely twice, but nothing was done with the ball from that point.
Chris Boswell hit all four of his extra point attempts for the Steelers and Jordan Berry did a good job of pinning the Colts back with good punting all day.
Mike Tomlin has really fixed many of the “small problems” he said were adding up to create bad play during the Steelers’ four-game losing streak. The team is playing better on offense—Bell’s strong running is becoming more of a focal point and Big Ben is starting to balance things out and mix it up a bit. On the other side of the ball, the defense is playing some of the best ball it has all season. They’re shutting down scoring chances of opposing teams and putting more pressure on the quarterback.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have really jumped back into things with two straight wins, and they have built up a good bit of momentum. Now, they’re going to have a long week to rest, heal up some injuries, and prepare for the New York Giants (7-3). If they can keep up this kind of performance, they’re going to play themselves into the playoffs and a divisional crown.