The Steelers bring a 13-6 deficit into the second half after not really doing a whole lot in the first. While the first-team offense had its moments, a strip sack ended the first promising drive and the second stalled in the red zone, settling for a field goal. The Landry Jones-led two-minute offense added the second field goal. Ryan Shazier’s night ended on an interception. The secondary has not looked much better than last week.
The big news of the first half was yet another injury suffered by rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, his fourth since camp opened. This one appeared to be a left knee injury. While he was putting weight on it on the sidelined, the severity is not currently known.
During a halftime interview, Mike Tomlin said that Smith-Schuster was going to test his knee and potentially try to get back into the game in the second half.
L.J. Fort and Keith Kelsey were in on the stop on the opening kickoff, forcing the Colts to start at the 19. Stephen Morris handed off to Marlon Mack on first down for no gain. Anthony Chickillo was on coverage on the tight end, a hard-earned three yards. On third and medium, Cameron Sutton made his presence felt with a pass defensed, batting the ball down as Morris flushed out to his right. Good to see the rookie making an impact. Trey Williams was buried after a 39-yard punt.
With the Steelers taking over from their 37, James Conner followed edge blocks from Xavier Grimble and Sammie Coates for an 11-yard gain. Now from the 48, Jones found Martavis Bryant for first-down yardage. With Smith-Schuster in the slot, Sammie Coates got the pass in the flat. He shook the first defender–twice–but there was no room to work up the edge, settling for two yards. On second down, the defense jumped offside, making it second and four. Conner pickedup five or six on a nice inside run to move the chains.
From the 27, Jones hit Grimble on a quick throw for about seven or eight. On second and short, Conner was able to catch the corner for seven yards, looking more comfortable and confiden than in his debut.
Form the 12, he got the ball again, and he spun out of contact in the backfield to get to the 10. Grimble made a fantastic one-handed catch against strong coverage on the next play for the score. Perhaps the most impressive rep of his entire professional career. But Boswell shanked the extra point attempt, resulting in a miss. Colin Holba’s snap was high and inside.
The Steelers defense left a gap open on their first rep of the half, resulting in the Colts ripping off a first-down run. But they bottled up the run on the next play, with Sutton ultimately penetrating at the end of the play and dropping the back for a loss of four. They got good pressure on second down, with Vince Williams finally coming in late to finish off the sack. Now third and 21, Hilton tripped up the back for a short gain to force a punt. Trey Williams got another chance to return a kick and showed shiftiness in close quarters to pick up a handful of yards.
The Colts were flagged for hands to the face on first down, a free five yards. Jones launched one deep for Justin Hunter, who got behind the defensive back, but seemed to have trouble adjusting to the ball. It looked like his shoe might have begun to fall off. On second down, Chris Culliver did a nice job of breaking up an inside slant for Sammie Coates down the field. Now on third and 10, it was Terrell Watson in the flat who had space to run for 15, making an easy read to make the first guy miss, taking a bad angle.
Near midfield, he got the carry this time but for one two yards. The run was negated by a hold on Grimble, who had a great drive to start the half. Williams got his first touch on offense on a draw run, showing some speed and shiftiness to add 10 yards. Cobi Hamilton dropped an easy pass on second down. Jones was able to find Smith-Schuster on third down, who bounced off of the first defender to pick up 14 yards and move the chains, getting out of bounds.
From the 36 now, Watson pushed past one defender for five yards off the right side. It was Watson again, bowling over people on second down for 10 yards. A pair of Colts were slow to get up after the physical run.
From the 20, Jones overthrew Coates in the end zone, who was behind his receiver. Watson was stopped for a short gain on second down off the right side. Jones tried for a back shoulder throw to Hamilton on third down, but the receiver didn’t seem to play it very well, even if the cornerback had good coverage. Boswell’s field goal gave the Steelers the lead thereafter.
From the 14 after a good stop on the ensuing kick, Morris did hit his first receiver for first-down yardage off the bat. Ferguson was stopped after a yard on the second play of the drive. After a false start, Henry Krieger-Coble made a very nice catch down the field with Vince Williams draped over him in good coverage.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Daniel McCullers got pressure up the middle, but Morris rolled out to his right and found his receiver for a first down. Chickillo made the tackle for a loss of two on the following play. Jacob Hagen was quick to hit the tight end on a short reception of one yard. Now third and long, Harrison put the pressure on Morris, but he got the throw off, beating Hagen trailing in coverage for O.J. Howard, the tight end.
From the 23, Tyler Matakevich wrapped up the back on a four-yard dump off. The second-down pass was dropped. On third and six, Sutton was beaten from the slot on an eight-yard slant for a first down.
Ferguson was held to two yards up the middle from the 11. Morris underthrew his receiver on second down, who had to go to the ground to make the reception, for six yards, setting up third and two from the three. Ferguson got close to scoring, but picked up the first down to set up first and goal. Ferguson shook Matakevich in the backfield and then eluded Brandon Dixon for the score. The Colts pushed their lead to 19-19 after Vinatieri matched Boswell’s missed extra point. It seemed to draw a smile from the Steelers’ third-year kicker.
After a short pass for eight to Grimble, Watson added five and a first-down conversion. Jones found Smith-Schuster for nine at the right sideline. It was Watson again in short-yardage work, showing strength and second-effort to move the chains.
Watson added a screen pass over the middle, stumbling initially, but getting around one defender and showing decent speed to the edge for 22 yards. At the 33 now, it was right back to Watson on the ground for six. Mike Tomlin kept him in to test his conditioning after he asked to tap out. Watson got the ball again, making an inside cut for three to set up third and one. On third down, he had a hole but made the most of it for the first down and five yards, setting up first and 10 from around the 20. Watson finally got his tap out.
Trey Williams now in, Marcus Tucker got the pass over the middle but was tackled after just a yard. It looked like he might have space but the defender closed quickly. On second down, Jones stood firm in pressure, throwing a bit of a lame pass to the short left pylon to Smith-Schuster, but the receiver was interfered with to set up first and goal. Unfortunately, Jones’ pass intended for the rookie was intercepted. It looked like his arm was also hit as he threw. Smith-Schuster shares the blame on this one due to miscommunication, stopping his route.
From the 20 after the touchback, with 4:23 to play, Phillip Walker picked up two yards before being tackled by Chickillo. Brian Allen did a nice job of finding the flat receiver on a screen pass. he struggled making the tackle but ultimately held on and was joined by other defenders to make the stop for a loss of a yard. On third and nine, with three minutes to go, the defense got off the field, with Dixon breaking up the pass down the field. He sealed Sunday’s game with a pass defensed.
Trey Williams was back to return the punt. With room initially, he was bottled up with that space proving an illusion.
Joshua Dobbs checked in for the two-minute offense, 2:43 to play, from the 31. His first pass to Smith-Schuster was knocked down by the defensive back, reading the play well. That pass needs to be thrown harder. On second down, he dropped the ball on the snap, recovered, and ultimately stumbled trying to escape pressure, taking a sack for a loss of 10. Now third and 20, he connected with Phazahn Odom for his first touch, picking up 11 yards at the two-minute warning, set to face fourth and nine.
The Steelers elected to punt, Jordan Berry sending one to the 30, bouncing the wrong way to the 36. Berry’s night not nearly as great as Sunday. The Colts were flagged for a hold though.
After a five-yard run, Tomlin used his second timeout with 1:37 remaining. Terrish Webb came in on the blitz, helping stop the play for a two-yard run. After another timeout leading into a third-and-three play, Webb helped stick the rush attempt again, holding the run to two yards, forcing the Colts to punt. It landed out of bounds at about the 15.
Dobbs fired quick to Hamilton for 9, getting out of bounds. He was just able to throw the ball away while he was being brought down on second down, pressure allowed by Keavon Milton I think. With 23 seconds to go, he tucked and ran. Looked like he could have hustled faster to the sideline, he’s supposed to have speed. 14 seconds to go, from the 33, Dobbs dumped down to Watson for six, burning seven seconds. Two plays left at most. Another quick pass to Watson and another big shoulder hit set up the hail mary with two seconds left. He escaped pressure a couple of times, but his throw was short of the goal line anyway, bouncing off of Tucker at about the 10 and falling incomplete. The Steelers lost their first preseason game of the schedule.