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Colts pound Steel Curtain to remain in AFC playoff hunt

With 46 sacks through 14 games, the defense tied the 1989 and 2005 Colts teams for the most sacks in a single-season as all four starters on the front line managed to wrap up Mitch Trubisky.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver D.J. Montgomery (2) rushes into the end zone past Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Patrick Peterson (20) for a touchdown during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lucas Oil Stadium — Dec. 16, 2023
Robert Scheer-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts scored 30 unanswered points Saturday to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-13, keeping postseason aspirations alive in the AFC playoff hunt.

Well-coached teams do more than just adjust to adversity, they respond to it. Indianapolis played without its starting quarterback, running back and right tackle, then lost its No. 1 receiving option and starting tailback to injuries in the first half. Despite facing an early 13-0 deficit, the Colts (8-6) still emerged victorious to snap an eight-game losing streak against the Steelers (7-7).

Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky found receiver George Pickens open across the middle on third down to drive just outside of the red zone. The pair were in sync two plays later as Pickens beat cornerback JuJu Brents outside the numbers to set up goal-to-go.

Steelers running back Jaylen Warren was stopped at the 1-yard line on consecutive carries and the Colts front line denied Trubisky’s attempt to sneak into the end zone. On fourth-&-goal, Trubisky reached the leather across the goal line to give the Steelers a 6-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

After the Steelers forced a three-and-out to begin the second quarter, Connor Heyward dove to block Rigoberto Sanchez’ punt and rookie Nick Herbig recovered the loose ball at the goal line. Two plays later, Trubisky delivered a touchdown pass to WR Diontae Johnson on an out route near the left pylon and extended the Steelers lead to 13-0.

Minshew pulled magic out of his hat on third down at midfield, directing Michael Pittman Jr. to the sideline for a 27-yard catch to drive inside the red zone. Once Minshew was sacked by T.J. Watt on first-&-goal, Steichen dialed up the play action. From the shotgun, Minshew faked the handoff and hit Zack Moss in the flat for a 16-yard TD to cut the deficit to 13-7.

On the Steelers next possession, a holding penalty moved the Steelers back to midfield. Trubisky chose to take a shot and lofted a deep pass downfield, but Colts safety Nick Cross leaped over Pickens and ripped away at its high-point to snag an interception. Indianapolis’ three takeaways extended the Colts active streak to a league-best 19 games.

Colts receiver D.J. Montgomery was on an island by himself after dropping a potential game-tying catch in the end zone for a turnover on downs. Minshew continued to target Montgomery on the following drive, connecting for a 34-yard gain to reach Steelers territory. Montgomery was able to redeem himself and score his first career touchdown as Minshew hit him on a shallow crosser to take a 14-13 lead with :22 left before halftime.

Indianapolis’ defense held Pittsburgh to just 216 Total Net Yards and forced three turnovers. With 46 team sacks through 14 games, the defense tied the 1989 and 2005 Colts teams for the most sacks in a single-season during the Indianapolis-era. On the Steelers first possession of the second half, linebacker E.J. Speed used his knee to strip the football away from Najee Harris inches from the turf, and safety Julian Blackmon recovered the fumble to give the Colts possession inside the red zone.

On the next snap, Minshew threw his third touchdown pass to tight end Mo Ali-Cox for an 18-yard score to extend the lead to 21-13. Minshew tossed a season-high three touchdowns and delivered his 18 completions to nine different receivers.

The Colts leaned on their physical ground attack for 13 consecutive plays during the second half as Trey Sermon rushed for a season-high 88 yards on 17 carries. Tyler Goodson signed off the practice squad this week and added a season-high 69 rushing yards on 11 carries. Matt Gay drilled a 31-yard field goal to extend the lead to 27-13 with 9:17 left in the fourth quarter.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Steelers converted a fourth-&-10 to keep the drive alive at midfield, but Trubisky would overthrew a pass that ultimately got him benched for Mason Rudolph on the final three drives. Blackmon picked off Trubisky to hand Pittsburgh its third consecutive loss with three games left in the regular season.

Indianapolis travels to Atlanta (6-7) for a Christmas Eve showdown in Week 16.