In many ways, the Steelers' Monday Night Football matchup against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium was the most frustrating to sit through so far during the 2022 regular season.
Pittsburgh dominated the first half about as thoroughly as it’s currently capable of amid this rebuilding season. The Steelers had a sizeable lead in time of possession, as well as yardage—222-66 if my math is correct.
The Steelers even had a 16-3 halftime lead, which normally doesn’t sound like much, but it really is a substantial one for this crew.
But it sure felt like it could have been a much bigger lead. It seemed like Pittsburgh’s offense left a touchdown or two on the field while settling for one-too-many threes from Matthew Wright’s surprisingly strong and accurate right foot.
Would the Steelers do what they have yet to do for a very long time and actually dominate a foe for four quarters?
Return specialist Dallis Flowers made certain of that by opening the second half with an 89-yard kickoff return. The Colts made quick work of the short field set up by Flowers and crawled to within six points on a Jonathan Taylor two-yard plunge.
The Steelers’ offense pulled the same second-half act that it did against the Bengals a week earlier by sandwiching two three-and-outs around a Matt Ryan fumble after the Colts had a first and goal from the Pittsburgh one.
But that Steelers six-point lead, the one that seemed in danger of going away with four-plus minutes left in the third quarter, was gone by the end of it, thanks to a six-yard touchdown reception by receiver Michael Pittman Jr.
You had to have a sinking feeling, right? This is who the Steelers mostly were through the first 10 games, a team that couldn’t play from behind.
Believe it or not, quarterback Kenny Pickett and the offense provided the life jacket the Steelers desperately needed by immediately answering with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Benny Snell Jr. scoring a two-yard touchdown on third and goal to make it 22-17. The Steelers then went for two and made it 24-17 when Pickett found receiver George Pickens in the back corner of the end zone.
There was still plenty of time remaining (just under 10 minutes), and the Colts would almost certainly have multiple possessions to try and tie—and maybe even win—the game.
Newsflash: Indianapolis did have multiple possessions to end the game, but the Steelers' defense held tough and snuffed out the Colts' final series with a stop on fourth and three from the Pittsburgh 26 with 30 seconds left.
All-in-all, it was the Steelers' most complete game of the year. Where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah, when I said it in my postgame article following the 20-10 victory over the Saints at Acrisure Stadium on November 13.
Is it encouraging that Pittsburgh is starting to semi-stack complete game wins? Sure it is. It’s also nice to see the offense continue to run the ball with effectiveness and efficiency, even with the top two backs—Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren—hampered by injuries.
Thanks to Warren’s hamstring injury that put him on the inactive list and Harris’s abdominal injury which ended his night prematurely, Benny Snell Football was on display in a way that the Steelers hadn’t seen since early in the 2020 campaign. Snell, who had 12 carries for 62 yards and a score, looked about as effective as any Steelers back has throughout the 2022 campaign.
That’s a testament to Snell, but it’s also a testament to a beleaguered Steelers offensive line that’s seemingly figured out a way to open holes for its stable of running backs on a consistent basis.
As for Pickett, he also looked as good as he has all year; with the exception of the errant red zone throw to Pickens late in the first half that would have given the Steelers a 20-3 lead, Pickett was impressively accurate all throughout the night and made the kinds of throws one would expect a rookie first-round pick to eventually discover in his toolbox.
The defense had a lapse or two in the second half but was also about as effective as it's been all year and may have played its best four quarters on Monday night.
The Steelers are now 4-7, which doesn’t look too good, but it’s a huge improvement over the 2-6 mark they had heading into the bye.
What’s next for these Steelers over the final six weeks? It’s impossible to tell. All they can do is continue to stack complete games and let the chips fall where they may.