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Luck was finally on the Steelers’ side in their 26-24 win over Colts at Heinz Field

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It wasn’t a great overall performance by the Steelers in a 26-24 win over the Colts at Heinz Field on Sunday. But they were certainly due for some good luck, which kicker Adam Vinatieri afforded them at the end.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

You just had that sick feeling as the final minutes rolled off the clock in the Steelers Week 9 match-up against the Colts at Heinz Field on Sunday.

There was legendary kicker Adam Vinatieri warming up on the sidelines shortly after Steven Nelson was called for pass interference on a deep pass on third and long that was clearly uncatchable. Just moments later, the Steelers, who were in decent shape in the timeout department, were quickly down to one right before the two-minute warning after the challenge by head coach Mike Tomlin on the aforementioned pass interference call was unsuccessful and a second challenge moments later when he thought Colts receiver Zach Pascal pushed off on a catch down to the Pittsburgh 31—a challenge that couldn’t have been more questionable, considering the NFL clearly doesn’t want to overturn anything involving pass interference despite going to great lengths this past offseason to make such plays subject to review—was also denied by the referee.

The Steelers managed to stuff the Colts on three running plays and prevented a first down that would have allowed Indianapolis to take the game clock down to zero before trotting the veteran kicker out onto the field to win yet another game.

But, no matter, because, despite his struggles up to that point in the 2019 season, the 46-year old kicker was always money with the game on the line, and you just knew he was going to convert on his 43-yard attempt with 1:14 to go and put the Steelers behind by one point.

And, with the way the Steelers had struggled to come up big in one-score games since last Thanksgiving, Sunday had the look of yet another heart-breaker, where one could point to many missed opportunities and a few mistakes that led to defeat and a 3-5 record at the halfway point of the season.

One of those missed opportunities was a failure to score a touchdown when the Steelers had a second down and inches at the goal line early in the game. And one of those mistakes was a failure by Tomlin to challenge the play before second and inches when it looked like running back Jaylen Samuels had broken the plane of the goal line on a first-down run from the four.

The first mistake of the day occurred moments before when a third-down pass from Mason Rudolph bounced off the hands of receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and was intercepted and returned into Steelers territory, setting up a field goal by Vinatieri.

Another mistake came in the third quarter, with the Steelers ahead, 20-16. Facing a third down near his own end zone, Rudolph found himself in said end zone, looking to complete a pass downfield. While he was doing that, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva was beaten pretty badly by Justin Hunter, who stripped Rudolph of the football. Thankfully, Villanueva had the presence of mind to fall on the ball, which netted Indianapolis two points and not six.

Yet another missed opportunity came just moments later, when the Colts fumbled the free kick by Jordan Berry, and the Steelers recovered at the Colts 17. Instead of perhaps putting the game on ice with a touchdown, the offense, one that mostly sputtered all afternoon, went backwards on three plays, and Pittsburgh had to settle for a Chris Boswell field goal and a five-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

The defense, a unit that was pitching a shutout in the second half after allowing 16 points in the first despite quarterback Jacoby Brissett giving way to veteran Brian Hoyer following a knee injury, forced a quick three and out to give the ball back to the offense.

But the defense was back on the field three plays later, following yet another mistake on a fumble by Samuels at the Pittsburgh 25.

After the Colts scored a touchdown to take a 24-23 lead, yet another golden opportunity was missed when the Steelers failed to score a touchdown after defensive pass interference on a pass to Diontae Johnson set the offense up at the Indianapolis seven.

Boswell converted on his field goal attempt to give the Steelers a 26-24 lead, but that obviously seemed shaky, especially after the offense actually had another possession and couldn’t ice the game with a couple of first downs.

Back to the 1:14 mark and Vinatieri’s attempt.

Would Rudolph, who looked efficient if not spectacular in completing 26 of 35 passes for 191 yards, a touchdown and a pick, be able to get the offense into reasonable field goal range to give Boswell a chance to win the game?

If he couldn’t and Pittsburgh lost, would people have the energy to get excited about a defense that notched five more sacks and again had multiple turnovers—including a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown by safety Minkah Fitzpatrick late in the first half when it looked like the Colts would take a two-score lead?

Thankfully, for the Steelers, they didn’t have to find out how strong Rudolph’s clutch gene was. And, yes, you can get excited about the defense.

Why? Vinatieri missed, and he missed badly.

Instead of trying to engineer his first game-winning drive, Rudolph got to practice the victory formation.

It wasn’t a great overall performance by the Steelers on Sunday, but after watching the ball bounce the wrong way so many times earlier in the season, they were certainly due for a break.

I guess Adam Vinatieri was money, after all.