While the Pittsburgh Steelers defense may not necessarily have done an excellent job last night considering the number of injuries that the Colts were dealing with on the offensive side of the ball—starting, of course, with the absence of their franchise quarterback, Andrew Luck—I do think the performance was indicative of the sort of showing that the team will need from them down the stretch in order to be successful.
The Steelers do not possess the combination of talent and experience on the defensive side of the ball to field a dominant unit. While the numbers over the course of the past two weeks have been good, they are exaggerated by the poor level of talent that they have competed against—even if both came on the road, which is notable.
But they executed where and when they needed to, and they created splashes, which is exactly the sort of opportunistic unit that can do just enough to limit the opposing offense while creating chances for their own offense, as they did against the Colts
With three sacks, two interceptions, and a forced fumble—which was not recovered—not to mention two goal line stops, the Steelers created splashes and key momentum-changing plays that helped define what at long last turned into a blowout, and a 21-point lead, which was their second-largest margin of victory of the season.
The opportunities began on the opening play of the game, when the Steelers sent a cornerback blitz against backup quarterback Scott Tolzien. William Gay blitzed off of the left side of the defense and got to the quarterback, knocking the ball loose, though the offense was able to recover the football, losing 10 yards in the process.
On the Colts’ second offensive possession, they faced a third and one play from the Steelers’ 29-yard line. James Harrison was able to secure the sack on that play for a loss of five yards. The five-yard difference made a 47-yard field goal attempt a 52-yarder, and Indianapolis ended up missing it.
Javon Hargrave also contributed a sack later in the game, which set the Colts up with a third and 15, but that ended up being converted. The offense got down to the one-yard line before failing to score on fourth and one, which was the second time in the game in which they got that far without putting any points on the board.
Following the second successful goal line stand, the defense rounded things out by intercepting Tolzien on the Colts’ next two drives. The first interception came from safety Mike Mitchell, who helped break up the fourth-down pass on the first stand. The Steelers scored off of that turnover.
On the next possession, it was Gay intercepting the quarterback, with each defender notching their first interception of the season. Prior to some garbage time yards, the defense held the home team to fewer than 300 yards. This is the sort of game that they need to be able to play for the Steelers to be successful in the playoffs.