For the first two quarters, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense looked the same as it had during their three-game losing streak. In a word, lifeless. The second half offense looked like the one that had won the first eleven of the season. Asked about the difference, Mike Tomlin said it was simply a matter of execution.
“We missed on some opportunities in the first half,” Tomlin told reporters in his post-game press conference. “I don’t know if it was that dramatic. It’s a fine line between drinking wine and squashing grapes, as we say in this business. And sometimes, it’s very subtle We didn’t change drastically in terms of our approach or what we were doing.”
After misfiring for the first thirty minutes, the Steelers were able to hit some big plays in the second half. Diontae Johnson got things started with a full-extension grab for a 39 yard touchdown on the Steelers’ second drive of the third quarter. That got things back to a ten point game.
Tomlin knew working the ball downfield was key to making up a large, 17 point deficit.
“We thought there were some chunk plays were there [in the first half]. We didn’t necessarily get them, capitalize on them, but that wasn’t going to stop us. We weren’t going to be deterred. And it was a critical component in terms of us getting back in the game. You’re not going to get back in the game three yards at a time.”
The Steelers also took advantage of several pass interference calls that went against the Colts. 45 of the Steelers’ 76 yards on a third quarter drive came via way of pass interference. That set up an Eric Ebron five yard touchdown to cut the Colts’ lead to just three.
Indianapolis by far was the heavier penalized team Sunday. They were flagged nine times for 83 yards. Pittsburgh just six times for 49 yards.
It appeared some of the deeper throws also helped open up the quick and short passing game the Steelers have been so dependent on this season. Ultimately, Pittsburgh’s offense was able to spread the ball around like it did during the first 11 games of the season. Four different players caught at least five passes while a different target was on the receiving end of all three of Roethlisberger’s scores: Smith-Schuster, Johnson, and Ebron.