Much like several games over the last month or so, Monday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was there for the taking for the Indianapolis Colts. Instead, Indy dropped its second straight game in a 24-17 loss to Pittsburgh and is now 4-7-1 on the season.
SECOND-HALF OFFENSIVE SPARK NOT ENOUGH TO OVERCOME EARLY STRUGGLES
The Colts’ offense was abysmal in the first half against the Steelers defense. For the second time this season, Indy’s offense failed to put up a single yard in the first quarter. Quarterback Matt Ryan was just 5-for-13 for 36 yards with one interception in the first half, and Indy’s offense only managed three total points.
In the second half, though, the Colts’ offense seemed to find a small spark. Rookie cornerback Dallis Flowers jump-started things with an 89-yard kickoff return, which the Colts would capitalize on with a Jonathan Taylor touchdown run a few plays later.
Although Taylor finished the night with 86 total rushing yards and averaged 4.3 yards per attempt, the All-Pro running back had his fourth fumble in opponents territory this season, which stalled a promising drive that would’ve likely given Indianapolis the lead late in the third quarter. Taylor’s fumble, which was the team’s league-leading 21st turnover, is the kind of self-inflicting mistakes the Colts’ offense has been making all season that have cost them games.
Despite excellent performances in the second half from Ryan (163 passing yards, one touchdown), rookie tight end Jelani Woods (career-high eight receptions, 98 yards) and wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (seven receptions, 61 yards, one touchdown), the offense came up short in crunch time yet again and simply couldn’t do enough to overcome their first-half struggles.
COLTS’ DEFENSE TAKES STEP BACK IN UNCHARACTERISTIC SHOWING AGAINST STRUGGLING STEELERS OFFENSE
Indy’s defense has been what’s kept their team in games for much of this season. Perhaps surprisingly, the unit struggled early on against a very below-average Steelers’ offense. Pittsburgh’s offense, led by rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, scored 16 first-half points as Pickett went 14-for-18 for 133 yards with 34 rushing yards.
Pickett was sharp through the air early on and finished 20-for-28 for 174 total passing yards on an average of 6.2 yards per attempt. Despite coming up with a few key stops in the second half, Pickett’s ability to improvise played a major factor in Pittsburgh’s early fourth-quarter drive which gave the Steelers a seven-point lead.
The Colts also struggled stopping the run as well. As a team, the Steelers rushed for a total of 172 yards on an average of 4.8 yards per carry. Stopping the run had been one of Indy’s strong points entering Monday’s game, but the unit struggled to contain Pickett (six rushes, 32 yards) and running backs Najee Harris (35 rushing yards, 3.5 yards per attempt) and Benny Snell Jr. (12 rushes, 62 yards, one touchdown on 5.2 yards per attempt) at times.
In total, the Colts’ defense gave up 323 total yards of offense and 24 points to the Steelers. Monday’s game was the first time Indy’s defense has surrendered more than 20 points to an opponent since their Week 6 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars back in October. As great as Indy’s defense has been at times this season, they had an uncharacteristic performance against Pittsburgh that played a significant role in the team’s second consecutive loss.