If you were hoping for a better outcome from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-team defense, keep hoping. Despite going against an underpowered Indianapolis Colts’ offense, one without their starting quarterback and center, they scored on three of their first four possessions in a 19-15 win Saturday evening.
The first drive led to the lone touchdown of the half for either side. The inaugural play of the game did the most damage, a 55 yard gain to Donte Moncrief, shaking off Artie Burns and Robert Golden for roughly 40 yards in run after catch. After Ross Cockrell was flagged for pass interference on 3rd and goal, to be fair, a ticky tack call, Frank Gore ran up the middle for a one yard touchdown.
“We still kicked our own butt a little bit. We have up a 55 yard play on the first drive because of a missed tackle,” Mike Tomlin told Missi Matthews at halftime. “Missed tackles and penalties kill defenses…that missed tackle produced a big play.
Bud Dupree was also called for a roughing the passer in the first half.
In their first action of the preseason, Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown hooked up twice on the first drive for gains of 13 and 15 yards. But consecutive passes to Jesse James fell incomplete, forcing the Steelers to settle for a Chris Boswell 36 yard field goal, making the game 7-3.
Roethlisberger and Brown’s days quickly ended, playing two drives and one quarter. Landry Jones, getting his first game action of the preseason, replaced Roethlisberger. The offense’s first drive ended in a Roethlisberger fumble after Alejandro Villanueva got beat around the edge.
Ben finished the day 6-9 for 73 yards while Brown had a pair of catches for 28 yards.
The best play the Steelers’ defense had in the first half came off a Ryan Shazier interception, picking Scott Tolzien deep into Pittsburgh territory, stalling another good Colts’ drive. After a three and out, the Colts marched six plays for 60 yards for another field goal. They’d do the same on their next drive, extending their lead to 13-3.
Jones and the rest of the offense put on an impressive two minute drive, ending in another field goal to make things 13-6 at the break. The Colts out-gained the Steelers by 70 yards and had nearly four more yards per play.
James Conner gave the second team offense a boost. Aided by good blocks by Xavier Grimble, and some downhill running, he carried the ball four times for 26 yards early in the third quarter. Grimble went to the air to cap off the drive, hauling in a pretty one-handed pass down the right seam from 10 yards out. Boswell missed the extra point, giving the Colts a one-point, 13-12 lead.
As has been the trend this preseason, the second-half offense got the team going. The Colts punted on the ensuing possession and the Steelers marched on a 12 play drive. Boswell’s kick was true this time from 37 yards out. Terrell Watson, who has enjoyed a strong camp, ran hard, while Trey Williams provided some pop as his backup.
Watson ran hard all game, carrying the ball eight times for 40 yards.
Indianapolis answered with a lengthy 14 play drive, ending in a one yard touchdown from running back Josh Ferguson. Adam Vinatieri missed the kicked, creating an awkward-looking 19-15 score.
Pittsburgh returned the favor and reached the Colts goal line before miscommunication by JuJu Smith-Schuster and Landry Jones resulted in an interception. Pittsburgh got the ball back with under a minute to go but Josh Dobbs could not orchestrate a game-winning drive.
NOTES: Smith-Schuster suffered a knee injury in the first half but was able to return the game…Martavis Bryant caught five passes for 23 yards…Vince Williams led the Steelers with 8 total tackles and half a sack...Knile Davis averaged 20.3 yards on three kick returns while working as the first team RB...Jordan Berry had punts of 49 and 47 yards…Colts WR Phillip Dorsett, rumored to be on the track block, led the team with 60 yards receiving….the Steelers drop to 2-1 in the preseason…short week for Pittsburgh, who will play the preseason finale on Thursday against the Carolina Panthers.