Steelers 23, Colts 20: We Almost Saw a Tight End Play Tackle

And doesn’t that just about sum it up? An ugly ass win is a still a win, but man … wow.

I didn’t expect this game to be an easy win, mainly because there is no such thing as an easy win in the NFL. Especially when you’re going on the road against a desperate team in need of a win on national television. But, even so, I figured the best chance for the Colts to pull off the upset was to have Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis cause chaos, the Steelers turn the ball over, and the Colts defense turn one of them into a touchdown. And that’s almost exactly what happened.

After the Steelers jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, thanks to an 81-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace, the Steelers offense went into meltdown mode in the final eight minutes of the second quarter, turning the ball over three times (two strip sacks by the aforementioned defensive ends, one of which was returned for a touchdown) and an interception on one of the few bad passes that Roethlisberger threw all night. The Colts managed to turn those turnovers into 13 points and take a field goal lead into the half.

The combination of Freeney-Mathis and the Steelers offensive line kept this game close. And about that offensive line? If you thought they had problems before, well, just read the headline. We almost saw a tight end play tackle. The Steelers dressed seven offensive linemen tonight and all seven of them had to play due to injuries, and then one of the injured players (rookie right tackle Marcus Gilbert) had to return to the game to play left tackle after Jonathan Scott left with some sort of leg injury. Doug Legursky was injured. Scott was injured. Gilbert was injured. Willie Colon is injured.

Overall, the offensive line looked dreadful based on my instant knee jerk reaction. The running game was nonexistent while the Colts were generating an impressive pass rush with what appeared to be just four rushers on most of the snaps. It seemed that on a number of plays the Colts were using a four-man rush and beating six blockers. Easily. Freeney and Mathis are great players, no doubt, but they put on a clinic tonight and nearly won the game by themselves.

After Shaun Suisham drilled a field goal attempt off the upright late in the third quarter, he hit a 40-yarder early in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 13. Eventually, James Farrior caught Kerry Collins with a hit that may draw a fine and knocked him out of the game with a possible concussion, which led to Curtis Painter coming off the bench. He had a bad start. After missing a WIDE OPEN Pierre Garcon — after Ike Taylor bit, badly, on a double move — Painter was drilled by James Harrison. Painter lost the ball and Troy Polamalu was there to scoop it up and walk into the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown with five minutes to play.

Game over, right? Well, you know what they say: You can never give Curtis Painter five minutes to get a game-tying touchdown. What’s that? Nobody says that? Hell.

Painter threw the Colts’ two best passes of the night to help get them deep into Steelers territory. On a third-and-two play from inside the five-yard line, and with just over two minutes to play, Polamalu nearly blew up a play in the backfield but missed it by a split second, allowing the Colts to tie the game at 20.

The Steelers took the ensuing kickoff and moved the ball down the field, thanks to a couple of nice plays from Mewelde Moore, to allow Suisham to kick the game-winner with four seconds to play.

So there it all is. Here are some more thoughts…

– It was just another day at the office for Mike Wallace, catching five passes for 144 yards and an 81-yard touchdown.

– Antonio Brown made a couple of nice catches and had two great punt returns. Second week in a row he’s looked good, which is nice after a slow start in week 1.

– The problem with first impressions is you only get to make one, and the first pass Wesyle Saunders saw in his NFL career bounced off his face mask (he was wide open for what would have been a first down). Amazingly, he was able to use that blunder to show off his athleticism by lunging backward and making a nice one-handed catch, taking the ball away from a Colts defender. But still, that was a big drop.

– Emmanuel Sanders had a big drop on the first drive, allowing a perfectly thrown pass from Roethlisberger to go through his hands and forcing the Steelers to settle for a field goal. Still, his worst mistake of the night was not tagging down a defender following an interception. Not only did he not touch the guy, he actually WENT OUT OF HIS WAY TO AVOID HIM (he jumped over him). He did have a bit catch on third and 18 later in the game.

– Troy Polamalu looked like Troy Polamalu. Aaron Smith looked like he is done.

– Reggie Wayne was targeted on 13 passes. He caught three for 24 yards, a long of 11, and at least two of those passes were of the bubble screen variety. Ike Taylor playing great? Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter playing like Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter? Yes. And Yes

– When he wasn’t turning the ball over Roethlisberger looked great, I thought. The final line is impressive, completing 28 of 37 passes for 364 yards (over nine yards per attempt) and a touchdown.

– Is there anybody out there that can play tackle?

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  • Hiddenaway

    to answer your question, the two tackles that the Steelers cut during/before training camp are still available, Flozell Adams and Max Starks.  The question is:  can the Steelers sign either of those guys and still stay under the salary cap????

  • Anonymous

    I’m available and will play for league minimum, but I think I’m undersized for an offensive tackle and have never played a variety of football that actually used blocking.

  • Callouswhisper

    As to can anyone play tackle, come on now Gilbert held damn well. That first sack was all Ben. Gilbert had worked Mathis well around the pocket (aka did his job well) and Ben promptly held it to long, stepped out of the pocket for no damn reason. That aside Mathis didn’t do jack with Gilbert in there. Scott was an abomination but I honestly believe gIlbert made big strides, in hostile environment and showed guts coming back in. 

    • DJAnyReason

      I was also impressed with Gilbert. However, it remains to be seen how severe his injury and Scott’s injury are.  I’m not exactly happy about the idea of starting tackle Trai Essex.

    • GlennW

      As an aside from the atrocious O-line play, Ben needs to take better care of the football when the play has broken down.  I don’t even care if he holds the ball too long and takes the sack, but he needs to protect the football as contact is being made.  On that first sack/fumble, it looked like Ben had already given up on making a play with a pass, but still was holding the ball out away from his body as opposed to tucking it away.  We saw this at least once in the Ravens game also– throwing arm flailing around even as Ben has already been wrapped up.  (As for the second fumble that went for TD, no chance, complete whiff on Freeney, no fault of Ben’s there.)

  • Hiddenaway

    Gilbert may have been serviceable, but right now the Steelers have no one at LT, even if Scott is healthy

    • Joel Miller

      Scott would probably still be healthy if he actually decided to play like a big man.  He was backpedaling all night and failed to get his hands on Freeney the entire 2nd half that he was playing.   Where was the punch?

  • Cols714

    I don’t know. That Saunders pass was throw like a dart, right at his head and it was almost on top of him by the time he got his head around out of his break. We can call it a drop, but that wasn’t an easy catch.

    Gilbert will hopefully be able to play LT the rest of the season, but yes we should call up Starks or Adams and see who wants to play RT.

    Tomlin has to get Aaron Smith out of the starting lineup.

    • Joel Miller

      Agreed on Aaron Smith.  He has not looked good to my eye and with Ziggy playing as well as he does…I think we are better served by promoting Hood to full time starter and using Aaron Smith as 2nd string.  There is too often that he is being outmuscled and it might be fatigue getting the better of him.

  • Cols714

    It could be that cutting Starks was one of the worst move the Steelers have made lately. I know they went to the SB with Scott, but jeez he was awful last night.

    I don’t agree with Ted very often, but I think cutting Aaron Smith and keeping Starks would have been a good move.

    For all the talk of Adams, Colon looked much better than Adams did until he got hurt.

    • Bob Costas

      It’s hard to understand why the front office thought Jonathan Scott would be a viable LT for the season.

    • Mike L

      Starks was not cut only because of money.  He showed up to camp overweight around 380-400 lbs.  I think even at 360 Freeney would have been running circles around him.  Now if he has been working to get into playing shape then maybe he is signable. 
      Ted suggested cutting Smith to keep Adams not Starks IIRC.

      Don’t discount the value Smith is providing in the development of Hood and Heyward.  Hood played very well last year but is some of his quick development into a 3-4 end the result of Smith’s mentoring?  Is he helping Heward the same way?  We don’t have all the answers but the coaching staff might.

      The Steelers do not disrespect their long time Steeler veterans (unless they are grossly overweight)!  That is why so many resign for less money, they can espect not to be cut after one or two years.  I think the results speak for themselves, and would not want any other FO for my team.

  • David

    This win was a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound. Here’s why:

    1. O-line. Enough said
    2. Our D is not our D we’re used to. Teams are running on us, we have no pass rush, and our secondary is terrible.

    So we have major issues with the O and D. Hey, but our STs look great!

    • Dr Obvious

      Defense is the most volatile of the 3 phases of the game from year to year for teams not named Steelers and Ravens.  We’re lucky to be constantly good, but even we shouldn’t expect to be great every single year.

    • countertorque

      I disagree with your assessment of the defense.  They did not play perfect, but they played well.  The Colts passed for 153 yards.  The Steeler defense gave up 1 TD and 2 FG’s.  Yeah, it would have been nice if they could have stopped that tying TD.  But, we’ve been complaining about that for years, with one of the best D’s in the league.  It happens.  Remember, that TD tied the game; it didn’t lose it.  Polamalu was getting behind the O-line as fast as the ball on most of that drive.

  • Lin

    Headlines– Steelers back into another Super bowl!! They always play a very weak schedule and they are able to be rested while the rest of the teams are beating each others brains out  Betya!

  • countertorque

    I disagree with your assessment of the defense.  They did not play perfect, but they played well.  The Colts passed for 153 yards.  The Steeler defense gave up 1 TD and 2 FG’s.  Yeah, it would have been nice if they could have stopped that tying TD.  But, we’ve been complaining about that for years, with one of the best D’s in the league.  It happens.  Remember, that TD tied the game; it didn’t lose it.  Polamalu was getting behind the O-line as fast as the ball on most of that drive.

    • Anonymous

      Consider the opponent. The Colts put up 1 TD on the Texans and 1 TD + 4 FGs on the Browns. That’s not company I want to keep.

  • Kloves57

    why do we keep having these cheap late hits ?    we are better than that