Not much went right for the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first 35 minutes or so of Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts. Defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt’s eight-yard sack of Philip Rivers, however, proved to be the beginning of a momentum shift.
After putting up 21 points in the first half, Indianapolis carried the momentum and possession entering the third quarter. They quickly marched down the field and were threatening to get back into the end zone before that play. Holding them to a field goal at that point seemed to spark the offense, defensive captain Cameron Heyward observed.
“I think the stop was a big point”, he told reporters on Sunday after the game. “Really, getting off the field fast, then our offense went and got seven points. I just think, we gave up the three points to start the second half, but after that, we really settled in, and we needed everything”.
“I thought everybody played cohesive. You look for each group to complement each other”, he went on. “We give up three, and then we get stopped on fourth and one and we don’t convert, then the defense gets off the field, offense gets a quick touchdown. You could just feel like, okay, let’s ride this wave a little bit. And we just kept battling back”.
Even though the Steelers were unable to punch it into the end zone on their first possession, the fact that they were able to even get close to the red zone seemed to be a major turning point, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked to be a different player in the second half, even finding success down the field.
Then when the defense was able to pick up the offense by quickly getting the ball back and helping to set them up with good field position, Roethlisberger quickly responded with that long Johnson touchdown, the sort of play that we haven’t seen in the offense for some time.
It was the spark that kept the comeback going until the clock struck 0:00 and awarded the Steelers their first division title since 2017. But the question is, was that spark enough to keep them playing at a high level that will carry on into the postseason?
They certainly can’t afford to regress back to the way that they had been playing collectively for the month leading up to Sunday’s game. If they play like that, then they are not going to get out of the first round of the playoffs, and it will be another squandered season.