Offensive play-calling in the first half
The Colts’ offense was severely hampered by Braden Smith and Anthony Castonzo’s absence, so Reich was tasked with hiding both backup tackles Chaz Green and Will Holden against the NFL’s best edge defender in T.J. Watt. While Watt did have a forced fumble that resulted in the first score of the game for Pittsburgh, Green did relatively fine against an All-Pro opponent, and I liked how the Colts chipped Watt with either Hines, Taylor, or Doyle. The Colts running game was also working wonders in the first half, and as a result, Rivers was able to dial up a couple of deep shots that worked to perfection, including a perfect dart to Zach Pascal for a 42-yard score. The Colts’ offense was moving the ball at will and it looked like it was going to put up 30+ points on one of the League’s best defenses.
Press-man coverage at the line
If Eberflus can solve his consistency issues, and the defense starts playing well for an entire game, then he is one of the hottest head-coach candidates this offseason. During the first half, the Colts pressed the Steelers receivers at the line of scrimmage, stifling Pittsburg’s passing game and forcing Big Ben to hold on to the ball a longer amount of time than he is comfortable with. It also helped that Eberflus dialed up some nice blitzes, one especially where safety Khari Willis came in untouched and was able to sack Roethlisberger.
Offensive play-calling in the second half
While I loved what the offense did in the first half, the second one was a completely different story. The Colts, after a Blankenship field goal to open the third quarter, could not move the ball at all and the lack of possession must have surely fatigued the defense, who was on the field for most of the third and fourth quarters. Questioned about the lack of running plays in the second half, Reich claimed that the Steelers were running some run-blitzes and that the passing game was working wonders, which is true, but it seemed like the Colts’ players were definitely not in the best position to succeed, which is on Reich.
Lack of blitzes/stunts to create pressure
The Colts 4-man rush is maddeningly inconsistent. At times, they don’t even need the extra rusher to create pressure and can wreck offensive game plans all on their own, but when Houston/Autry is not having a good game, which is pretty much every other week, the Colts defense as a whole suffers. On Sunday, both Houston and Autry were having some tough days, which is why Eberflus should have dialed up more blitzes or stunts at the line to try and get in Big Ben’s face.
Completely going away from Hines/Taylor in the second half
Reich is a really good head coach, and when he is at his best he is one of the best offensive minds in the entire NFL, but his inconsistency is so damn frustrating. On Sunday, Taylor and Hines were dominating the Steelers front, especially JT, who is on fire, so him getting just 4 touches after halftime is inexplicable. I don’t care how the Steelers were playing the run, if your best and most consistent offensive player is performing well, you just keep feeding him the ball.