The Pittsburgh Steelers moved to 4-7 on the season after pulling out the road upset over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night, 24-17.
This was truly a tale of two halves between these AFC squads, as Pittsburgh dominated the first two quarters while Indy showed up in the second half to make a game of it. The Colts also had an opportunity to knot the game up at 24 in the final seconds and brought the ball down to the Pittsburgh 26-yard line, but some questionable clock management, coupled with a lack of execution, helped push Indy to 4-7 -1 on the year, which includes a 2-4 record at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Kenny Pickett was an efficient 20 of 28 passing for 174 yards in the win while adding 32 yards on the ground. Benny Snell Jr led the way out of the backfield for the Steelers after Najee Harris. The veteran back finished with 62 yards on 12 carries to go along with a touchdown. On the Indianapolis side, Matt Ryan completed 22 of his 34 passes for 199 yards, a touchdown and a pick. Jonathan Taylor rushed 20 times for 86 yards and a touchdown, while Michael Pittman Jr. caught seven of his team-high 11 targets for 61 yards and a score.
For a more detailed breakdown of how this game unfolded, check out our takeaways below.
Why the Steelers won
Pittsburgh was able to build up most of its lead in the first half. It got points on four of its five first-half drives, giving itself a 16-3 cushion at the break. Meanwhile, the defense stifled almost everything that Indianapolis wanted to do. James Pierre set the tone early by intercepting Matt Ryan on just his second pass attempt of the game.
Kenny Pickett was dialed in over that stretch as well, hitting 14 of his 18 passes for 133 yards and was making some solid throws as he led his team up and down the field in the first half. He did go silent in the third quarter, however, unable to complete a single pass in the period. After Indianapolis took the lead in the final seconds of the third quarter, he got hot again and conducted an 11-play drive that would give them the go-ahead touchdown. On that drive, Pickett was 5 of 6 passing for 38 yards.
This throw to Pat Freiermuth on third-and-6 was arguably his best of the night, hitting the tight end in the perfect spot and in stride to move the chains.
He also had a perfectly placed ball to George Pickens while rolling out to his right to net the two-point conversion and go up by seven midway through the fourth quarter.
Why the Colts lost
There were a number of reasons Indy found itself on the losing end of things in this game. First, it came out monumentally flat and had one of the worst first halves of any team this season. As a club, it had zero net yards in the first quarter and only mounted 71 yards for the entire first half. The offense didn’t get its first first down until the 7:46 mark of the second quarter, and Matt Ryan completed his first pass with 7:05 remaining in the second. That was the latest a team registered its first completion since the 2020 Broncos, who were using wide receiver Kendall Hinton as their quarterback in that game due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the QB room.
That sluggish start gave Pittsburgh the opportunity to build up a lead, creating a lofty mountain to climb. Despite those struggles, the Colts were able to get back into the game; they even took the lead in the final minutes of the third quarter. However, you could argue that they should have gotten that lead even earlier. On the drive prior, the team squandered an opportunity to punch it into the end zone after bringing the ball to the one-yard line. A botched hand-off between Matt Ryan and Jonathan Taylor resulted in a fumble that the Steelers recovered, eliminating the scoring opportunity.
Maybe the most egregious point in the game for the Colts — and what may be the most glaring sign of having an inexperienced head coach — came on the team’s final drive. Down by seven, they were able to convert a fourth-and-3 play to the Pittsburgh 33-yard line coming out of the two-minute warning. At that point, interim head coach Jeff Saturday had all three timeouts at his disposal. The Colts ran no-huddle following the fourth-down conversion, and Ryan was sacked for a seven-yard loss. The quarterback then scrambled for 14 yards on second down, and Jonathan Taylor rushed up the middle for no gain on third down. It was only after that play that the team called its first timeout. By then, more than a minute had ticked off the clock.
It felt like clock management malpractice, which ended up forcing the offense into an impossible situation. Facing a fourth-and-3 from the Pittsburgh 26-yard line with 30 seconds on the clock, it failed to convert, giving the Steelers the victory.
The biggest momentum shift in this game came on the opening kickoff in the second half. Dallis Flowers returned the kick 89 yards, immediately putting the Colts inside the red zone with the ability to get back in the game.
The offense was able to get into the end zone thanks to a two-yard run by Jonathan Taylor, and it felt like the balance of power in the game was set to shift in Indy’s favor.
That was especially true after the defense forced a quick three-and-out for the Steelers offense, which held the ball for just over a minute on that ensuing possession. The Colts offense then put together an 81-yard drive that brought them all the way to the Steelers one-yard line, but that fumble on the miscommunication between Ryan and Taylor sucked the wind out their sails.
Play of the game
George Pickens continued to state his case as the NFL’s top rookie receiver Monday night. In the second quarter, the second-round pick made awhere he needed to twist his body all the way around to haul in the pass from Kenny Pickett and did so while getting both feet in bounds. That catch sparked the Steelers’ lone touchdown drive of the first half and was the main highlight of the 10-play, 79-yard drive that was capped off by a Najee Harris six-yard rushing score to put Pittsburgh up by double digits.
From here, the Colts will face the Cowboys on “Sunday Night Football” in Dallas. As for the Steelers, they’ll wrap up this two-game road trip in Atlanta against the Falcons in Week 13.
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