The Pittsburgh Steelers are facing a critical game tonight in their bid for a Wildcard seed after they got little help during the early games. This match with the Indianapolis Colts is approaching realistic must-win territory.
To win today, they must do so without tight end Heath Miller, though compared with what the Colts are facing, down four injured starters, including two offensive linemen and Andrew Luck, that seems like a breeze.
The offense put up 30 points a week ago against a quality Seattle secondary on the road, but struggled to capitalize in the red zone. The defense struggled significantly in the passing game, however, giving up nearly 12 yards per pass attempt and five passing touchdowns. The tackling from the cornerback position in particular was poor, and as a result we are likely to see at least a little bit of Brandon Boykin tonight.
Inactive for the Steelers are the following:
TE Heath Miller
LB Sean Spence
WR Sammie Coates
T Byron Stingily
QB Mike Vick
RB Jordan Todman
DE L.T. Walton
T Anthony Castonzo
WR Phillip Dorsett
LB Jerrell Freeman
QB Andrew Luck
G Hugh Thornton
DE Bjoern Werner
CB Josh Thomas
The Steelers won the coin toss and elected to receive. It seems as though they’ve opened the first half with the ball about 10 out of 12 times this year. Jacoby Jones set deep to receive with Fitzgerald Toussaint as the up man. Jones returned it from nine yards deep, but did not even cross the 15-yard line before fumbling and losing it. It was only the second career fumble on a kickoff for the nine-year veteran.
From the 11-yard line, Frank Gore was stopped after a two-yard gain up the middle. Matt Hasselbeck‘s first pass attempt was low for Andre Johnson on an out. On third and long, Jarvis Jones dropped into coverage and intercepted Hasselbeck’s pass over the middle at the goal line, tackled at around the six.
After a loss of one on first down, DeAngelo Williams broke free for a 21-yard gain to the 26, led by Roosevelt Nix. He was bottled up for no gain on the following play. Williams fumbled and lost the ball on the next snap, recovered by the Colts. It is his second fumble of the year, and the first one that he lost.
From the 25, Gore picked up about eight yards up the middle. Bud Dupree and Ryan Shazier combined for a run stop, along with Will Allen on a run blitz. On third and four, Hasselbeck scrambled and was stopped two yards shy of the chains. Adam Viniateri gave the Colts an early 3-0 lead.
This time, Jones took a knee in spite of the fact that the kick only reached about a yard deep into the end zone, and he heard it from the crowd with a mock cheer.
On first and 10, Ben Roethlisberger set with an empty backfield, with the first pass going to Jesse James for five yards. Darrius Heyward-Bey flashed open along the left sideline on second down, breaking a tackle for a 21-yard gain near midfield. From the 46, James gained another five yards on a reception in which he showed toughness after contact. It was James again over the middle hooking up for a 21-yard reception on the next play.
From the 29, Roethlisberger checked down to Williams, who was stopped for a gain of one. Antonio Brown broke a tackle or two down to the 13. From there, Williams gained two yards on a draw. On second and eight, Brown was unable to haul in a back shoulder toss, on which he argued that he was interfered with by the cornerback, who had a piece of the jersey. On third down, Roethlisberger’s pass was poor, missing Markus Wheaton in the shallow corner of the end zone, instead hitting the pylon. Chris Boswell tied the game at 3-3.
From the 20, Hasselbeck tossed his first pass to T.Y. Hilton for about 10 yards. Will Allen came in on a safety blitz on the following play, taking down Hasselbeck for a loss of five. The Colts followed it up with an incompletion. On third and 15, Hasselbeck’s pass was tipped, and then Brandon Boykin came in from behind the play, scooping the ball off the grass for the interception. The ball was tipped by William Gay.
Taking over from the 37, Williams found a crease up the middle for about four yards. Roethlisberger nearly floated a back shoulder pass to James down the field, but the linebacker in coverage was in the right spot. On third and six, Roethlisberger went for it all to Heyward-Bey incomplete, with Greg Toler getting his arm in there. Boswell was good for 51 yards for Boswell.
After a return to the 26, Hasselbeck handed off to Gore, who was stuck by Vince Williams after a two-yard gain. Williams stopped Coby Fleener to set up a third and three. Hasselbeck completed in front of Williams to Griff Whalen, however.
From the 37, Hasselbeck avoided pressure to find Hilton over the middle, but the connection was not completed, for an incompletion. On second down, Gore just avoided a tackle attempt to gain seven yards. On third and short, Dan Herron made the catch just beyond the sticks at the end of the first quarter.
Near midfield, Hasselbeck was brought down by Cameron Heyward after flushing out for a yard, but a holding call negated the play. It was Heyward who was held. On first and 20 back at the 38, Gore was able to reach midfield finding space. After a seven-yard gain, Hasselbeck slipped on the handoff, as did Gore, falling before able to convert the first down. Williams made the tackle as Pat McAfee‘s punt was fair caught by Jones at the 10.
Roethlisberger looked to go deep on first down, but overthrew Wheaton to open up the series. On second down, Williams was knifed down behind the line for a four-yard loss. Following a false start, Roethlisberger fired off a quick pass to Brown in the hope of creating something, but was only able to gain six. Jordan Berry kicking from his own end zone only reached the 46 for a net of 37.
On first down, Hasselbeck hit Johnson on a quick toss for 16 yards as Boykin was picked off by a blocker. From the 30, after a timeout to avoid a delay of game, Johnson got past Gay for a big 28-yard gain to set up first and goal. Gay bit on what he thought was going to be a slant.
James Harrison and Allen dropped Gore for a loss on first down. From the nine after a delay of game, Hasselbeck was able to extend the play against a three-man rush to find Gore in the end zone, making it 10-6.
Roethlisberger’s first pass was tipped at the line and fell incomplete. After an eight-yard gain by Martavis Bryant, Roethlisberger delayed until Brown flashed open to come back for the first down. Williams tried to get outside for a couple of yards on the following play. Bryant skied over Toler, who had his back to the ball, for a 27-yard snag with some yards after catch.
Williams could not get outside again for a short loss to follow up. On second down from the 41, Roethlisberger lifted the ball over a defender to hit Brown down the field for 26. From the 15, with five wide, Williams made the contested catch in traffic, boxing out, but gained only two yards. On second down, Williams spun out of an initial tackle out of a draw for six up the middle to set up third and short. Roethlisberger hit Brown for the score in the shallow left corner of the end zone against Vontae Davis as the Steelers jumped back ahead. After the score, the Steelers converted the two-point attempt with a completion in the back of the end zone to Will Johnson. Pittsburgh grabbed a 14-10 lead.
Following a five-yard gain on first down, Gore was stopped off the left side for three to set up third and two. With the clock winding down on the half, Hasselbeck found Fleener, but Lawrence Timmons did an excellent job of spinning the tight end down before reaching the sticks and forcing a punt. Tomlin chose not to use any of his timeouts as the Colts ran down over 30 seconds to the two-minute warning.
Jones tried to run under the punt for a fair catch, but muffed it in his attempt, with the Steelers fortunate to recover on the 40. This very well spells the end for Jones.
On first down, Roethlisberger could not get the ball out to Wheaton as the third-year receiver is still looking for his first reception of the game. Williams made one tackler miss to pick up the first after a throw on the following play.
Across midfield, Roethlisberger threw over the middle to Wheaton for another first as the Steelers used their first timeout. Roethlisberger connected with Brown for a big gain, but Cody Wallace was flagged for a 15-yard personal foul that negated the gain. It was his ninth penalty of the year.
On first and 25 from the 47, Roethlisberger got the ball to Williams, who slipped his way down to the 32 for 15. He hit Wheaton for a 27-yarder as a follow-up. From the five, Roethlisberger tried to heat one down the middle for Bryant incomplete, behind the receiver. On second down with 19 seconds left, he forced a ball into double coverage that was popped up. On third and goal, he hit Wheaton right at the right pylon for the score. the Steelers grabbed a 21-10 lead heading into halftime.