The Steelers are riding a two-game winning streak heading into today’s game, but the Indianapolis Colts are the toughest team they’ve faced so far that they haven’t lost to. The three teams they have won against have combined for three wins–all of them belonging to the Chargers.
So this will be a key contest to determine where they currently sit. And that test will be taken without James Conner and Benny Snell at running back, leaving the load on the shoulders of Jaylen Samuels, who is returning from a knee injury himself. But the Colts are also without T.Y. Hilton at wide receiver, and cornerback Pierre Desir being inactive is another loss for the AFC South contenders.
The Steelers started the game with possession, Mason Rudolph finding JuJu Smith-Schuster for a short pass for 12 yards. Samuels was bottled up at the line of scrimmage on the second play from scrimmage. On second and 10, a running back screen to Samuels picked up 17 across midfield.
Rudolph’s rainbow shot down the field to Smith-Schuster fell incomplete, touching his fingertips. Now second down, Samuels was dropped for a loss of three yards to set up third and 13. The handoff exchange was sloppy, but didn’t seem to affect the run. Rudolph’s high pass was off of Smith-Schuster’s hands, intercepted by Kenny Moore. A catchable ball, likely a drop. And now the Colts have the ball at the Steelers’ 35.
A play-action pass went for eight on first down, Steven Nelson on the tackle. Marlon Mack picked up seven down to the 20. He was cut down by Mike Hilton after two on the following play. Now second and three after a penalty, Mack picked up the first down for six. On first and goal, T.J. Watt missed a stop on Brissett in the backfield on a keeper, but the defense cleaned up for a loss of three. Back to the 10, Bud Dupree chased him down for the sack, his fifth of the year. On third and goal from the 14, he was forced to scramble, as the Colts settle for a field goal after starting the drive from the Steelers’ 45.
And as predicted, Trey Edmunds ripped off a 45-yard run on his first touch of the game, second as a Steeler, down to the Colts’ 30. Rudolph had to check down to Samuels for no gain on the following play, however. On second down, he threw underneath for three to Diontae Johnson. Now third and seven, James Washington came up with a juggling reception for a first down through contact.
Now inside the 20, Samuels carried for about two or three on a quick snap, not wanting to introduce the possibility of a challenge. At the 15, off play action, Rudolph went to Vance McDonald on the boot for a short gain. Now third and four, a quick throw over the middle to Samuels picked up a chunk to set up first and goal at the four. On first and goal, Samuels got the carry and nearly scored, but his knee was down just short of the goal line. With Roosevelt Nix in and Edmunds in the backfield, they were stuffed for a loss of two, however. Now third and goal, Rudolph scrambled out of pressure but ultimately threw the ball away. Chris Boswell came in for a field goal to tie the game after Samuels very nearly scored three plays earlier.
The ensuing kick was returned, with Jordan Dangerfield knocking the ball loose past the 30-yard line, but the Colts were able to recover. At the 37, Brissett was under pressure from Javon Hargrave as he checked down for six. He had time to throw on the next play, finding his man for 18 across midfield at the end of the first. Campbell was just able to to run past Dupree for four yards, but Mack was stopped by Terrell Edmunds on second down. Now third and five, at the 34, Campbell broke free and had a shot at scoring, but fell inside the 10 and fumbled out of bounds, just barely avoiding the end zone for a touchback.
Marked at the seven, Brissett handed off to Mack, breaking two tackles for four yards. However, an illegal shift wiped out the play, making it first and goal from the 12. Off play action, Brissett’s screen pass in the backfield went wide. He was hit as he threw, clutching his left leg. Brian Hoyer checked in at quarterback, handing off to Mack for a short gain. Now third and goal from the 11, Hoyer found Jack Doyle running free over the middle for the score, giving the Colts a 10-3 lead.
Dangerfield was called for a hold on the next kickoff, forcing the Steelers to start their third drive from the 14. Samuels got the carry on first down for two. Washington came up with another great catch for a first down on the next play with the ball thrown well behind him. Following a nine-yard checkdown to Samuels, Rudolph stood in the pocket to deliver a short pass for a first down to Washington.
Edmunds got the touch on the next play for seven yards across midfield. He got the first down a play later. After a false start. Brandon Brooks-James got a carry for no gain. Samuels went for seven to set up third and eight on a catch. He couldn’t get the first on another reception on third down. On fourth and short, they ran the shovel pass to Smith-Schuster, but was stopped for no gain.
A toss to Campbell picked up a chunk play off the left side across midfield. At the 43, Mack pushed his way for seven near field goal range. He picked up a new set of downs on the next play. On third and six after a four-yard run and an incompletion, Hoyer found his man with Mark Barron in coverage for the conversion.
The Steelers got their 20th takeaway of the year after that, however, with Minkah Fitzpatrick coming up with his fourth interception inside the five, taking it 96 yards all the way for the touchdown. It’s a 14-point swing as Pittsburgh stunningly ties the game at 10-10.
Watt was flagged for roughing the passer after a 20-yard pickup, the Colts quickly down to the Steelers, 39. Doyle picked up about seven down to the two-minute warning. Campbell’s short reception down to the 26 gave Indy a new set of downs.
A pair of runs gave them a new set of downs once again at the 14. Hoyer connected with Pascal for the score on a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in response to the pick six, a great throw and catch on the play. Now 16-10 after Heyward got a hand on the extra point attempt with 42 seconds to play in the half, but the Steelers do have their timeouts.
After a short return by Switzer, Samuels picked up about three yards on a short pass to begin the drive. With 29 seconds to play, he found McDonald underneath for a first down as they used their first timeout. Another checkdown to Samuels got just four yards, inbounds, forcing their second timeout. Rudolph scrambled for the first with seven seconds left after their final timeout around midfield.
They couldn’t even get out of bounds on a short pass to McDonald, but the Colts were inexcusably flagged for a late helmet hit, a 15-yard penalty plus an untimed down. Boswell’s field goal attempt was good, making it 17-13 heading into the half.