One week after being heavily criticized for the second-half collapse against the Cincinnati Bengals in a pivotal AFC North matchup, the much-maligned Pittsburgh Steelers defense bounced back in a major way in Week 12 on the road against the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football, putting the game away late.
After struggling in the third quarter against the Colts following a lone kickoff return that sparked Indianapolis and led to a rebound from a 16-3 deficit into a 17-16 lead, the Steelers defense buckled down in the fourth quarter in crunch time, making key stops when needed to pick up a much-needed win.
On the final drive of the game, Alex Highsmith recorded a strip sack on Colts’ quarterback Matt Ryan that Indianapolis recovered, and then later stopped Jonathan Taylor for no gain, ultimately leading to a fourth-down pass breakup from Minkah Fitzpatrick and Cameron Sutton to seal the win.
It wasn’t pretty by any stretch, but a win is a win and that’s what the Steelers defense helped secure in the fourth quarter. For star outside linebacker T.J. Watt and veteran inside linebacker Myles Jack, it shows just how resilient the Steelers are as a group.
“Just resiliency. When our backs are against the wall, we gotta be able to perform, and like I said, we always pride ourselves on wanting to be on the field as a defensive group to finish a game off. I’m glad we did,” Watt said to reporters following the win, according to video via Steelers.com. “To be able to be resilient, to be able to get a game when it kind of ebbs and flows. Like I said, just happy with the way the game finished.”
Watt was rather quiet throughout the night going against standout right tackle Braden Smith for the Colts. While he was able to generate some pressure, he couldn’t quite finish off some pass rushes, which allowed Ryan and the Colts to sustain drives late. Then, Highsmith. stepped up in a major way.
The plays by Highsmith capped off an up and down night for the Steelers defensively, which was an overall sign of resiliency for Jack.
“It shows that we’re very resilient. We started out pretty good and then…they kind of got their momentum back going,” Jack stated to reporters, according to video via Steelers.com. “But at the end of the day, we got the win, guys made plays when need be and we got off the field.”
The Steelers started out well against the Colts on Monday night football, picking off Ryan on the first drive of the game, eventually holding the Colts to just three points in the first half and just 66 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes of action.
The long kickoff return by Colts’ rookie Dallis Flowers sparked Indianapolis though, giving the Colts’ offense a short field that they capitalized on, eventually adding another touchdown late in the third quarter to take a lead.
From there, it looked like the Steelers were going to blow a very winnable game in frustrating fashion once again. But the defense buckled down and made plays when they absolutely had to have them. That was great to see and shows, as Watt and Jack pointed out, serious resiliency from a group of players that have been challenged all season long.