The Pittsburgh Steelers have not come out of the bye week looking refreshed and rejuvenated, that’s for certain. With an offense averaging just 3.6 yards per play–and scoring even fewer points–and a defense allowing third-down conversions, blowing assignments, and missing tackles, they enter the second half trailing 10-3.
Ben Roethlisberger has completed just 7 of 15 passes, much of that on the final two-minute drive, for 72 yards, 4.8 yards per pass attempt, with an interception. Le’Veon Bell does have 40 rushing yards on nine carries, but Martavis Bryant lost nine on a sweep.
Artie Burns allowed Donte Moncrief to get past him for a 60-yard touchdown, caught peeking in the backfield, for what has proven to be the difference so far.
Opening the second half after a touchback, the Steelers allowed Frank Gore to pound his way up the middle for nine yards, an ominous beginning. On second and one, however, they were able to drop him for a solid loss of five, with the combined efforts of the defense live. On third and six, Jacoby Brissett quick-hit Chester Rogers for the first down.
Joe Haden remains out.
Off play action, the Steelers blew a coverage off the right side, Rogers forcing two defenders to miss into each other for the long, pitiful, pitiful touchdown. Mike Mitchell was carted into the locker room with a foot injury while Haden returned to the sideline on crutches.
The offense did open up the half with a couple of nice running plays for Le’Veon Bell on first and second down. Ben Roethlisberger found JuJu Smith-Schuster on a big play down the field on a great throw and catch down the right sideline for 44 yards to the 22. Roethlisberger hit Bell for a screen for eight yards. Bell was held to a short gain to set up third and one. The back gained five on the play to set up first and goal.
Following no gain on first down, Roethlisberger hit Smith-Schuster on a quick slant down to the two, but Eli Rogers was flagged for offensive pass interference for the pick. Now second and goal from the 18, Roethlisberger threw behind Antonio Brown, but the play drew a defensive pass interference penalty, a spot foul that gives the Steelers first and goal at the seven. Off play action, Roethlisberger this time found Smith-Schuster into the end zone for the rookie’s fifth touchdown of the season.
The extra point attempt was blocked and nearly returned for two points, but Jesse James was able to stop him, even though I think he was responsible for allowing the block.
On the ensuing Colts possession, a Stephon Tuitt sack was negated by a William Gay hold, and a fumble was not called because it was ruled that forward progress was stopped, which is not reviewable. While the pressure forced an incompletion on third and two, the field position difference was monumental, the punt being down at the one-yard line.
A stupid penalty by the Colts put the Steelers out to the 21-yard line, however, somewhat negating the bad field position. After a three-yard run and a two-yard checkdown, Roethlisberger on third and five, Smith-Schuster nearly made a fantastic catch on a hot ball from Roethlisberger, but he took a hard hit to knock the ball out. Can’t blame him there.
On the ensuing punt, Darrius Heyward-Bey was held by vice jammers to back the Colts up at their own eight-yard line. So they started at the one and pushed the Colts to their own eight, not the worst possible outcome.
Brissett overthrew his checkdown back on first down for an incompletion. Cameron Heyward made the tackle on Marlon Mack for no gain. Forcing third and 10, Brissett forced to scramble. Tuitt seemed to hit the quarterback in the head at the end of the scramble. Brown called for a fair catch at the right sideline at the Steelers’ 40.
Bell picked up five yards on first down on a run off the right edge. Roethlisberger overthrew Brown down the right sideline, but Brown was flagged for offensive pass interference, now second and 15. A screen to Martavis Bryant got the penalty yardage back, at least, setting up third and five to open the fourth quarter. Bell was tripped up for virtually no gain on the play on a screen. The Steelers are one for eight on third down now. Heyward-Bey forced a fair catch at the 11.
Brissett quickly cleared the concussion protocol to be out there for the next snap, not missing a play. On first down, Rogers took the ball on a sweep for a short gain. Bud Dupree made a nice tackle for no gain to set up third and eight. On the play, Brissett’s pass bounced off of Jack Doyle’s hands, picked off by Ryan Shazier for a much-needed turnover to set up first and goal at the 10.
On first down, Bell bounced off to the right edge to pick up three yards. Roethlisberger looked in Jesse James’ direction after holding the ball for a while, tipped away by a defender. Now third and goal, once again after holding onto the ball for an extended period of time, he found Vance McDonald wide open for the touchdown. Going for two to tie the game, following a timeout, Roethlisberger found Bryant from the seven after a delay of game, bringing the score to 17-17.
With just under 12 minutes to play, Brissett’s first pass after the interception was batted by the line. The Steelers missed two or three shots at a sack before finally getting him by the end, Vince Williams cleaning it up for his team-tying fifth. On third and 14, Tuitt this time got to Brissett for the sack, the quarterback slow to get up and jogging off gingerly.
Punting from the 11, Brown was able to return the punt out to Pittsburgh’s 47-yard line as the Steelers look to take their first lead of the game.
Bell was dropped for a loss of thwo yards to spoil the benefit of the good field position, setting up second and 12. Five wide, Roethlisberger’s second-down pass didn’t come close to reaching its destination, short of Smith-Schuster for an incompletion and setting up third and 12. Roethlisberger rifled out a hot pass down the field to Smith-Schuster for 20 yards on the play.
James Conner got his first carry of the day, led off the left side for 12 yards, but it looked like McDonald landed on him a bit as he jogged off. Inside field goal range now, Bell worked his way forward for three to the 20. After just one more yard up the middle, Roethlisberger threw to Bell short of the chains, but the back dropped it anyway, setting up a field goal. Chris Boswell bounced it off the right upright, however, for a huge miss that kept the score tied.
That really just sums up the day, does it not? Boswell misses from 37 to give the Colts the ball at the 27.
Brissett on first down targeted Coty Sensabaugh down the field on an out route, but he broke on the ball and defended it. Gore was stopped up the middle after four to set up third down. Rogers picked up six to get the first down.
Mack was good for about five up the middle from the 37. A holding call negated a four-yard run. Now second and 15, Mack couldn’t hold on to the ball with Shazier in coverage. The Colts ran a conservative underneath play that picked up six and gave the Steelers the ball back at the 15 after a favorable Colts roll with 3:10 to play and two timeouts.
Bell picked up about four yards on first down to 19 on first down. He was limited to another four as he was wrestled out of bounds on the right side. On third and two, a shovel pass sweep to Eli Rogers came close to the first-down marker. The Colts challenged the play, but the ruling stood.
Bell was blown up in the backfield on a cutesy play for a loss of seven yards. Now second and 17 from the 18, a checkdown to Bell get 13. On third and four, Bryant was open on a drag route for the big conversion and some room to run close to midfield. With 45 seconds to play, Roethlisberger stepped up through pressure and delivered the ball to Brown with space, connecting on a 32-yarder well inside field goal range.
Bell got two yards on first down running to the right side, evidently marked out of bounds. Another short run to Bell let the Steelers drain the clock down to four seconds to set Boswell up for a game-winning field goal attempt