Tom’s Ten Takes – Steelers vs Colts

Following each game in the 2022 Steelers season I will be giving you my 10 takes. These aren’t going to be hot takes and meant to shock the world. This will be instant reactions to the game written while still in that period just following the game when the emotions are high and the ideas are fresh. Included will be thoughts, observations, queries and reasons that caused me to yell at the television.

Game 11 – Indianapolis Colts

1. Riding High – Big time players make big time plays. In a game were the biggest stars didn’t make many huge plays a star in the making made two. Alex Highsmith was finally able to get the pass rusher on the sack tally forcing a fumble in the process. Not only a big play but the Colts just let the clock run and run. He followed that up with a chase down tackle to stop Jonathan Taylor from hitting a big hole on third and three. He now has ten sacks along with a team leading four forced fumble. Well done, Sir.

2. Sutton-ly Stupid – The Colts are going to attempt a 32 yard field goal and allow your team to retain the lead. The chance of blocking a field goal from that distance is highly unlikely. You don’t want to give them a chance to take the lead. Cam Sutton jumps offside. Luckily, he was bailed out by a fumble by Taylor a couple plays later. There is a time and a place to try to come off the corner to block a kick. That wasn’t it. Just a dumb penalty to commit in that situation.

3. Not Going Wasted – I was really pleased by the play of Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland. Neither of them had any offensive touches coming into the game. Both were given opportunities and capitalized. Both of them looked quick and decisive. Snell ran with aggressiveness and quickness and McFarland showed the patience and vision he had lacked in the past. They each averaged at least five yards per carry. With Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren banged up it gives you a glimmer of hope if they are out for any time. At the least they put some positives on film for their upcoming free agencies.

4. Second Half Struggles – After a dominating first half they Steelers once again struggled in the second half. Special teams gave up a monster kick return. For the second straight week the third quarter started with multiple three and out drives. Kenny Pickett’s first four passes were all at the knees or lower. The defense could have given up three straight touchdown drives if not for the aforementioned fumble by Taylor. If they can put two good halves together they’ll be able to win a few more down the stretch.

5. A Tree Among the Woods – In the second half the Colts used there tight ends repeatedly and effectively. Jelani Woods and Mo Alie-Cox combined for eight receptions on two early drives and the defense had no way to stop it. At 6’7” Woods was imposing even drawing and defensive pass interference at the goal line. At one point Terrell Edmunds was lined up across from him and it looked like a father-son game at the local middle school. He towered over him. So I guess its okay to throw the ball downfield to your big tight end instead of shovel passes and screens behind the line of scrimmage.

6. Sweep the Legs – How many yards can a team (or a league) give up because everyone tackles so darn high? Taylor is a powerful runner and there were several plays where the Steelers defender met him in the hole. Was he stopped? Oh, no. Legs churned and yards were gained. No one really tackles the legs anymore. Guys like Damontae Kazee and Arthur Maulet will actually wrap up but the bigger guys need to show their muscles. Man, get low and take out his legs. He can’t run without them. And maybe the defense won’t have to be on the field for so many plays.

7. What Did Connor Do? – Matt Canada was in an extremely giving mood. If you were a skill player and you suited up for the game he made the effort to get you the ball. Six different players had a rushing attempt. Ten different players caught a pass. No matter how bad the call was (see the screen to Zach Gentry and bootleg red zone shovel pass to Derek Watt) he got everyone involved. All except Connor Heyward. He had better send Canada’s some cookies or something.

8. Flashing Fitz – With Kazee back in the mix it gives the defense more flexibility to use Minkah Fitzpatrick in different ways. Playing Kazee as a deep safety allowed Minkah to attack the shallow routes. He was shot from a cannon on some of those crossers closing on receivers quickly. They have used him in Man coverage on tight ends outside and I bet they’ll start to mix him in on slot blitzes as well. Letting him be that aggressive may lead to some big plays given up but he’ll make a few more as well.

9. Kick It Into Gear – I commented on how shaky Matthew Wright was in his first game. So to be fair I have to give him props as well. He is six for six on field goals the last two games including one from 52. Chris Boswell looked pretty healthy running off the field at half time so I would expect him back soon. But did you know that Wright has a tackle in consecutive games? Boswell has done that twice in his career most recently in 2018.

10. Top Ten Not Happening – With this up and down season there was some hope or consideration that the Steelers could end up with a top ten pick in the upcoming draft. Looking at the remaining schedule it looks like they may be picking closer to twenty than ten. They play Baltimore twice and they haven’t looked great. They’re the only team with a winning record left on the schedule. Atlanta, Carolina, Las Vegas and Cleveland all have four or five wins. Frankly, those are winnable games based on how they have played lately. Pittsburgh will likely end up with about eight wins and be drafting in the middle of the round. It was a nice thought while it lasted.

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