The Pittsburgh Steelers entered their Week 16 game vs. the Indianapolis Colts trending in the wrong direction. After losing their last three games, the most recent a 27-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football, the skid was real. The path didn’t get any easier with the 10-4 Colts coming to Heinz Field in hopes of clinching a playoff berth for themselves.
If the Steelers win, they clinch the AFC North, and after the Colts won the opening coin toss they deferred their possession to the second half. That meant it was Ben Roethlisberger and company taking the field for the opening drive of the game. The Steelers’ first quarter issues continued with a quick three-and-out.
The Colts’ first drive saw the Indianapolis offensive line impose their will on the Pittsburgh defense. Jonathan Taylor ran with ease as the Colts completed big third down conversions, eventually moving the ball into the red-zone. It was Taylor on third and goal who walked into the end zone for the first score of the game. After the point-after, the score was 7-0 with 9:48 left in the first quarter.
The Steelers’ response was nothing more than a field-flipping drive, and Jordan Berry was back on the field to send the ball back to Philip Rivers. A holding play on the punt return moved the ball back to the 5 yard line for the Colts’ second drive of the game. With just one first down, the Colts punted the ball away, giving the Pittsburgh offense their best field position of the game.
The Steelers’ drive went three and out after giving up a second down snap, and the first quarter ended with a 7-0 score in favor of the visiting Colts.
Ben Roethlisberger threw incomplete on consecutive plays, but it was James Conner on third down who plunged into the end zone for the Steelers’ first touchdown of the game.
Matthew Wright’s extra point was good, making the score 7-7 with 13:47 left in the second quarter.
Just when it looked like the Steelers’ were settling in and about to make this a game, the defense gave up yet another lengthy drive. Eerily similar to the Colts’ first drive of the game, the Pittsburgh defense was unable to slow down Jonathan Taylor. Taylor was getting nearly 5 yards a run, and after a big catch to T.Y. Hilton got the Colts in field goal range, it was Taylor who plunged into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game. The score was 14-7 with 6:35 left in the first half.
Another typical Steelers three and out gave the ball back to the Colts’ offense with tremendous field position. That field position resulted in a second down bomb from Rivers to Zach Pascal for a 42-yard Colts’ touchdown, making the score 21-7 with 4:02 left in the second quarter.
Nearing desperation mode, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense put together their best drive of the game, but the drive would end after just two first downs. With 1:48 left in the half, the Colts had the ball again with all three timeouts remaining. A penalty on second down put a wrench in the drive, and the half would end with the Colts clinging to a 21-7 lead.
The Colts received the kickoff to start the third quarter, and Philip Rivers and Jonathan Taylor continued to throttle the Steelers’ defense. This 9-play drive was good enough to add to the Colts’ lead, but a timely sack by Stephon Tuitt on 3rd and 3 forced a field goal. The kick was good, and made the score 24-7 with 9:23 left in the third quarter.
Needing an answer, the Steelers finally starting to target Chase Claypool, and it paid off in a big way. Completions from Ben Roethlisberger to the rookie receiver moved the Steelers into a first and goal situation. However, that is when the drive stalled. Trailing by 17, Mike Tomlin elected to not go for the field goal on fourth down, and the pass intended for James Washington was knocked away for a turnover on downs.
Pittsburgh’s defense was able to get a three and out, and it didn’t take the offense long to strike back. After a Ray-Ray McCloud punt return, Roethlisberger hit Diontae Johnson for a 39-yard touchdown.
Matthew Wright’s point-after was good, making the score 24-14 with 3:15 left in the third quarter.
The Steelers’ defense continued to stand tall, getting another three and out and getting the ball right back to Roethlisberger and the offense. It didn’t take the Steelers long to strike again. After two defensive pass interference calls got the ball into the red-zone, it was Roethlisbeger hitting Eric Ebron for the touchdown.
Wright was perfect, again, and the score was 24-21 with 14:53 left in regulation.
Rivers and the Colts offense was able to get near midfield before they failed on third down and punted the ball back to the now red-hot offense. Roethlisberger and company continued their positive plays with another huge drive. A couple defensive penalties extended the drive, and it was Roethlisberger with his third touchdown pass, this time to JuJu Smith-Schuster to give the Steelers their first lead of the game.
Wright’s kick was good, and the Steelers led 28-24 with 7:38 left in the fourth quarter.
Suddenly trailing for the first time, Rivers and the Colts were starting to press. On a second down pass play, the deep pass was intercepted by Mike Hilton for the defense’s second takeaway of the game.
The Steelers had no interest in even giving the ball back to the Colts, but they did just that with 2:18 left in the fourth quarter, and no timeouts. Starting on their own 15, a defensive pass interference call on Steven Nelson extended the drive, giving Indianapolis new life. Facing a 4th and 7, Rivers’ pass intended for Pascal fell incomplete, giving the Steelers the win.
The win moves the Steelers’ record to 12-3, clinching the AFC North, and ending their 3-game losing streak. They now prepare for a Week 17 game against the Browns in Cleveland. Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on the Steelers as they prepare for the Browns.