INDIANAPOLIS — In a night when both offenses struggled at times to maintain momentum, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 11-game and 75-yard scoring drive that spanned the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth and a 24-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night proved crucial.
Pittsburgh rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett and the Steelers’ ground play and offensive inefficiency by the Colts resulted in a 16-3 halftime lead for the Steelers, and while the Colts staged a comeback that gave them a momentary advantage, it wasn’t enough .
The Steelers (4-7) have won two of their last three, while the Colts (4-7-1) under interim coach Jeff Saturday have lost two of their three.
For the second straight week, the Steelers put points on the board early, only to see their advantage quickly evaporate after halftime with a poor performance. This time, however, the Steelers held on to victory. Before Monday night, the Steelers were 6-0 down going into the fourth quarter. Only the Rams (0-7) have more losses this season without a win in three quarters behind
The Steelers’ lead vanished after halftime when the defense gave up 152 yards to Matt Ryan and the Colts in the third quarter and the Steelers didn’t move the ball. The same issues that have plagued the Steelers all season surfaced throughout the game — red-zone efficiency, lack of big games — but this time the Steelers held the Colts fourth and third to finish at 30 ones Force turnover on downs Seconds remain to seal the win.
QB collapse: Though Pickett still had some accuracy issues, missed a wide-open George Pickens in the end zone, and didn’t have a finish in the third quarter, the rookie had his best performance leading the Steelers into a fourth quarter Come Back. Pickett completed 20 of 28 attempts for 174 yards and threw multiple lasers at key moments, like a two-point conversion against Pickens to give the Steelers a 24-17 lead. He also found Diontae Johnson for an eight-yard gain in second when the Colts blitzed and stayed calm in the pressure. On the next game, he hit Pat Freiermuth on the sideline for a 17-yard gain to convert third and sixth places. The Steelers scored a few games later with Benny Snell’s touchdown to retake the lead.
Worrying trend: After the Steelers rushed for 232 yards and 16 first downs in the first half for a 16-3 lead, the Steelers ran just eight offensive games in the third quarter, gaining just 18 total yards. The Steelers had no first down in the third quarter, although they converted a third down with a big pass from Pickett to George Pickens down the middle in the first game of the fourth quarter. As offense stalled, the defense that kept the Colts at zero yards in the first quarter was worn down and lost the lead — and nearly gave up two touchdowns if the Colts weren’t fumbling near the goal line.
silver lining: Najee Harris, who hit his third touchdown in two games in the first half, started running back and didn’t play in the second half after suffering an abdominal injury midway through the second quarter. The Steelers were already without top reserve back Jaylen Warren, who was inactive with a hamstring injury, but running back depth increased Monday night. First all-season active Anthony McFarland finished with 30 yards on six carries, and Benny Snell Jr., normally a special teams player, had 62 yards and his first touchdown since the 2020 season on 12 carries. The Steelers finished with 172 rushing yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry — and have now had two rushing touchdowns in three straight games, their longest streak since 2018. – Brooke Pryor
Under the radar stats: Pickett has gone three straight games without a turnover after committing nine in his first five games.
Next game: at Falcons, Sunday
A terrible first half and odd clock management in the late game were the lasting images for the Colts in this game. Indianapolis’ slow start was notable. It was the third time a team had been held to zero or fewer yards in an opening quarter this season, with two of those instances involving the Colts (they also did against the Patriots in Week 9). When the Colts woke from their slumber, they faced a 16-3 halftime deficit.
But they rallied to take a 17-16 lead before falling apart late on. There will be questions about the Colts’ approach to the closing minutes. They faced a fourth deficit against the Pittsburgh 37 – which they converted – with 2 minutes remaining, but wasted 36 seconds between their subsequent first and second down games. They ended up in third place with a rushed game before finally taking a timeout with 30 seconds remaining. The Colts were stopped on the fourth down.
Worrying trend: Though quarterback Matt Ryan was charged with the fumble, it appeared to be running back from Jonathan Taylor, who went wrong near the goal-line on his botched exchange late in the third quarter. This is a continuation of Taylor’s ball safety woes this season. Taylor has a history of fumbling dating back to his University of Wisconsin days, but he has three fumbles in nine games this season. Taylor had four fumbles in 2021, but that came after a league-high 332 carries. He’s on track for a higher total in 2022.
QB Breakdown: Ryan was under constant pressure in the first half, with the Steelers pressuring him on 53% of his dropbacks. The result: Ryan completed 5 of 13 passes for 36 yards. The pressure eased as the offensive line calmed down a bit in the second half, allowing Ryan to complete 17 of 21 attempts overall after halftime. The Colts were also able to make some downfield shots and complete two 28-yard passes to Michael Pittman Jr. and Jelani Woods.
Big Game: The Colts’ offensive problems in the first half left the impression that Indianapolis could be headed for a blowout loss, but backup defenseman Dallis Flowers played his part by returning the kickoff for 89 yards in the second half. That led to a Taylor touchdown four games later, but more than that, it was the shot in the arm the Colts desperately needed on a night when yards were hard to come by. Flowers’ return in the first half went for more yards than the Colts’ total yardage (71 yards). — Stephen Holder
Under the radar stats: The Steelers have now beaten the Colts eight times in a row, the second-longest winning streak of any team against the Colts. They trail only the Dolphins, who won 14 straight games from 1980 to 1987.
Next game: at Cowboys, Sunday
https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/35133861/kenny-pickett-steelers-squander-lead-close-colts Kenny Pickett, Steelers squander lead but close out Colts