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Colts 2016 season in review: Week twelve loss to the Steelers

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NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

As part of our look back at the 2016 season for the Indianapolis Colts, we’re taking a look at each game the team played this season. We know that won’t be the most fun experience for Colts fans, but we’re taking a look back at each game within the context of the entire season. Today we continue the series with the week twelve loss to the Steelers:

What Happened:

The Colts hosted a Thanksgiving Day game for the first time in their history, as the Steelers came to town for a primetime matchup. Unfortunately for the Colts, however, they would be playing without Andrew Luck, who had suffered a concussion in the previous game and obviously couldn’t go on a short week. The Steelers jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter behind a touchdown run by Le’Veon Bell and a Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown scoring toss, but the Colts got on the board midway through the second quarter as a Pat McAfee fake punt pass on fourth down to Erik Swoope set up a five-yard pass from Scott Tolzien to Donte Moncrief for a score to make it 14-7. From that point, however, the Colts couldn’t find the end zone. On two straight drives (one in the first half and the other in the second half) the Colts reached a goal-to-go situation, but they ran eight plays and gained just six yards, scoring zero points. Six run plays went for minimal yardage and two fourth down passes went incomplete, ending Colts scoring chances. Their next two drives ended in Scott Tolzien interceptions, and by that point the Steelers had added two more Roethlisberger-to-Brown hookups to take a 28-7 lead. The Colts’ defense was torched by Pittsburgh’s best players (Bell rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown while Brown caught five passes for 91 yards and three scores), while the offense struggled to finish drives and get into the end zone (their only score was set up by a fake punt pass on fourth down).

What We Said at the Time:

Ultimately, having to play without Andrew Luck made it a really tough task for the Colts. The Steelers still put up 28 points and the Colts couldn’t cover Antonio Brown whatsoever (he scored three touchdowns), while they also had trouble stopping Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger. But with all of the opportunities the Colts had offensively it’s hard to wonder whether this would finally have been the time they had a legitimate change against the Steelers had Luck played, but it didn’t happen. The Colts [fell] behind early against a dangerous offense, and the Colts’ offense wasn’t able to put up the points needed to hang with them.

What We’re Saying Now:

Of all the Colts’ losses in 2016, this one might have been the least surprising and the least impactful. Most expected the Colts to lose this game anyway, and once Andrew Luck was ruled out that was basically seen as a foregone conclusion. In all honesty, Scott Tolzien and the offense were more effective than most thought, but the struggles to actually get into the end zone were very costly. It’s hard not to wonder how different this game would have been with Andrew Luck, as the offense would have been more capable of putting up points and therefore could have perhaps been in a competitive high-scoring affair. But Luck didn’t play, the only game he missed in 2016, and the result was a 21-point loss in primetime. But it wasn’t to a division opponent, it was without Andrew Luck, and it was a game most thought they would lose anyway. The Colts had plenty of heartbreaking and impactful losses last season, but this one was one of the least impactful of all their eight losses.