The Steelers may not have much of a shot at a playoff berth or AFC North title, but they are still fighting and improving each week. They played an all-around good game and are now 4-7, only three games below .500.
Let’s look at how they got there.
The Steelers ran for 172 yards in Week 12 against the Colts, who before this game allowed the second lowest yards per rush in the NFL. What is most impressive though, is they did it without Jaylen Warren or Najee Harris after he left the game with an abdominal injury. Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland Jr. ran a combined 18 times for 92 yards, just over 5 yards a carry, and scored a touchdown. In 2020 and 2021 McFarland and Snell both averaged 3.2 yards per carry.
While both looked to be running better than in the past, a lot of credit has to be given to the offensive line that was opening holes for them. The Steelers offensive line still has a decent amount of miscommunication and mental mistakes each game, but they are much better than what the Steelers have had the last few seasons.
Kenny Pickett also stood out in this game. He was efficient and didn’t commit any turnovers, and he unleashed more of his playmaking ability in this game, throwing downfield and evading the pass rush while avoiding costly mistakes. He found George Pickens for a few key catches and one big downfield throw and was more efficient throwing to Pat Freiermuth and Diontae Johnson.
There were mistakes all around too. Some big dropped passes ended drives, Kenny Pickett still was jittery in the pocket at times, and the offensive line made their usual number of mistakes, particularly in pass protection. But even with those mistakes the offense was pretty darn good, scoring on five of their nine drives for 2.67 points per drive, a big increase from the Colts 1.65 points per drive the rest of this season.
Honor Roll: Run Blocking, Kenny Pickett’s playmaking, George Pickens big catches, Next RB up!
Demerits: A few big drops, Dan Moore Jr. in pass protection, continued miscommunication.
Final Grade: B
The Colts haven’t been a good offense this season, and the Steelers defense allowed them to move the ball well. A fumble and a blocked field goal kept the score lower than it should have been. The Colts got into scoring range on six of their ten drives, and that isn’t good.
On the good side, the Steelers held Jonathan Taylor to under 4 yards per carry and Matt Ryan to under 6 yards per pass attempt while forcing two turnovers. On the bad side, the Steelers allowed a good number of longer drives and really struggled to cover the Colts tight ends, who combined for 112 yards on 12 targets. The Colts did a good job of doubling T.J. Watt consistently, and while the Steelers did record three sacks, two of them were from defensive backs. T.J. Watt looked better than last week, but he’s clearly not 100% yet.
Both James Pierre and Arthur Maulet played serious amounts of time in this game, and played pretty well. Terrell Edmunds was all over the place, and blitzed a few times, recording a sack, in what looked like more Brian Flores influence on the defense.
Finding a good balance between the very different styles of defense Teryl Austin and Brian Flores are known for is not an easy challenge, but it looks like the Steelers are doing better at navigating that balance. Hopefully it leads to better results in the future.
Honor Roll: James Pierre’s incredible interception, Chris Wormley, Terrell Edmunds
Demerits: Covering tight ends, giving up long drives, allowing Matt Ryan to escape the pocket and run multiple times
Final Grade: C
It’s rare you can point to non-returners on special teams and show a clear impact on the game each week, but the loss of Myles Boykin and Robert Spillane were obvious all game. The stat sheet showed 225 yards of kick returns, and it was on film with how long it took replacements to get to the punt returners, even if the Colts didn’t actually return any punts. If the Steelers had lost this game, the kick return unit would have been one of the main reasons.
Pressley Harvin III punted well again. He’s not spectacular, but with his best gunner inactive, the Colts still didn’t return a punt, and Harvin III was the main reason for that. He had three punts inside the 20 and his only touchback Cody White had a good chance to save it but couldn’t. On the other hand, Matthew Wright kicked off 6 times and despite the Colts returning them well, only pulled off one touchback. Wright was perfect on field goals, but Chris Boswell was missed on kickoffs this week.
Honor Roll: Isaiahh Loudermilk FG block, Pressley Harvin III, James Pierre
Demerits: Kickoff team.
Final Grade: D
The defense looked like it was throwing out some new wrinkles in this game, and Steeler fans got their wish with no Robert Spillane in coverage, and yet the Steelers suddenly couldn’t cover tight ends at all. On offense you have to give credit for Anthony McFarland and Benny Snell seeing rare success, and the play of Kenny Pickett, but that was offset a bit by more predictability in the play calling. The Colts were a team built to win this year but have had some injuries derail that. It was good to see the Steelers win this game as a far younger team that is learning how to win.
Final Grade: B
Now it’s your turn to tell us what you think. Give us your grade for the Steelers overall performance and let us know your thoughts in the comments below
Grade the Steelers Week 12 win over the Colts
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