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Steelers fall to 11th seed in AFC after another colossal meltdown against the Colts in Week 15

Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on prior to a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 16, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers fell to 7-7 record, fourth place in the AFC North and the 11th seed in the AFC following their 13-30 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 15. Though the door hasn’t completely slammed shut on their playoff hopes this season, they’ve got just an 8% chance to make it now following the loss. Week 15 was a particularly crucial one for the Steelers, who had the same record as the Colts heading into this game and were both in standing for a position in the Wild Card Round.

The first half was a bumpy ride out of the gate, as the Steelers won the opening coin toss and elected to receive the ball. Unfortunately, the offense didn’t take advantage of the opportunity for that jump-start, skidding out from the jump. RB Godwin Igwebuike notched a 34-yard return on the opening kick-off to start the drive with solid field position, but after a run for no gain from Najee Harris, a four-yard sack from DeForest Buckner, and a screen to Jaylen Warren that just barely got them back to the line of scrimmage, Pressley Harvin executed his first punt of the game. The Colts attempted to answer with some points on their opening drive, but some luck fell the Steelers way, as Colts kicker Matt Gay shanked a 56-yard attempt to keep the game scoreless.

The next three drives resulted in more luck for the Steelers, including a 54-yard drive resulting in a rushing touchdown from Mitch Trubisky (the extra point missed by Chris Boswell), followed by a blocked punt against the Colts by TE/FB Connor Heyward, which was returned to the 1-yard line. After a three-yard loss on a run from Najee Harris, Trubisky managed to deliver the ball to Diontae Johnson for a four-yard touchdown — the Steelers’ second score of the day. Steelers up 13-0 — what could go wrong?

That seemed to be where the Steelers’ luck ran out, unfortunately. The Colts would go on to score two touchdowns before the half, including a 16-yard reception for running back Zack Moss and a 14-yard touchdown to wide receiver D.J. Montgomery, who’s bounced back and forth between the Colts’ practice squad and active roster since signed as a free agent back in August. Suddenly, the Colts arrived in a big way, entering halftime up 14-13. The bad news didn’t stop with the Colts two scores, unfortunately, as Pittsburgh lost safeties Damontae Kazee (ejected for a brutal hit on Colts receiver Michael Pittman) and Minkah Fitzpatrick (knee injury).

The second half was even uglier than the first for the Steelers, as Fitzpatrick was officially ruled out with his injury, and the Colts enjoyed an absolute free for all on offense. Though running back Zack Moss was ruled out after suffering an arm injury on his previous touchdown grab, their back-ups to the back-up, including Trey Sermon and Tyler Goodson, were able to move the ball with ease.

The Colts continued to pile on the Steelers after the half, as Minshew dealt an 18-yard touchdown to tight end Mo Alie-Cox before setting up Matt Gay for another three field goals to make Pittsburgh’s loss a done deal.

The Steelers benched Trubisky after his second interception of the day, electing to bring in backup Mason Rudolph on the following drive with just 2:08 left in the fourth quarter. It was all for naught, though.

The Colts forced three total takeaways on the day, including two interceptions from Trubisky and a lost fumble from Najee Harris. Despite all of their talent on offense between the dynamic running back duo of Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren and George Pickens, Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth playing integral roles in the receiving game, the offense posted just 216 yards on the day — their lowest yardage total to date this season.

The defense struggled mightily once again, too, not to be forgotten. The middle of the field remained a problem amidst the injuries at linebacker, and losing two of their top safeties didn’t help matters one bit. The Colts totaled 372 yards — their fourth-highest yardage total all season — scoring 30 points for the fourth time this season.

With that, the Steelers have officially fallen to the 11th seed in the AFC, where a trip to the playoffs would likely feel like a moot point.

Where to next for these Pittsburgh Steelers? Time will tell.