Week 12 Game Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers 7, Indianapolis Colts 26
What you need to know
The Steelers tried to avoid falling behind big to the Colts, but the balanced attack of Indianapolis, plus the complete ineffectiveness of their own offense, led to a drubbing on Monday Night Football. Ben Roethlisberger made his first start since having knee surgery, and showed some signs of rust. He threw two interceptions and never managed to find any type of rhythm in his passing game. He did manage a 12 yard touchdown strike to favorite receiver Hines Ward, but even it was set up by an interception and nice run back by Troy Polamalu of the defense.
Contributing to Roethlisberger's woes was the lack of an effective running game. Clearly Pittsburgh wanted to control the ball and time of possession by pounding the ball. Indianapolis looked prepared for this and managed to foil the Steelers' early attempts at establishing the running game. Both Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis were ineffective in the first half, and no real positive results were seen until the game was out of reach.
In spite of the lack of offense, the Pittsburgh defense played a decent game. They did allow Edgerrin James to go over 100 yards rushing (the first time they've allowed a 100 yard rusher in 23 games) but he didn't find the end zone. Peyton Manning had two scoring tosses, but he finished with less than 300 yards, a moral victory if nothing else for the Steelers' defense.
Pittsburgh simply seemed outmatched for most of the game. Once Peyton Manning and crew turned Bill Cowher's opening onside kickoff attempt of the second half into a touchdown drive, the game was effectively over.
The Colts were clearly pumped up for this Monday Night game. This intensity seemed to be out of control at times, as the Colts were called on a high number of penalties, including personal fouls. They did manage to use this intensity for good though, as they outplayed the Steelers throughout, and pulled away for good late in the first half.
The team was once again led by their trio of offensive stars. Peyton Manning threw two touchdowns and over 200 yards passing. Edgerrin James ran for over 120 yards. Marvin Harrison had over 120 receiving yards and hauled in an 80 yard touchdown on the Colts’ first play. The offense was balanced, and prevented the Pittsburgh defense was focusing on one particular aspect of the game.
The Colts clearly didn't play perfectly though, as evidenced by Peyton Manning's first half interception. It was a pass forced to Harrison that was easily intercepted by Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu. It came at a time in the game when the Colts looked to be running away from the Steelers, and it allowed Pittsburgh to get back in the game, if only temporarily.
The defense was a huge factor in the win, allowing under 200 yards of total offense, and shutting out the Pittsburgh squad throughout most of the game. The sole score they did surrender came after Manning's interception, which set up the Steelers' offense inside the Colts' ten yard line. Otherwise, the defense was fantastic, picking off Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger twice and sacking him three times. They shut down Pittsburgh's running game and allowed the Manning-led offense to score more than enough points for the victory.
What you ought to know
Roethlisberger showed a little rust during his first game action after knee surgery. He threw mostly high percentage, short yardage passes, finishing well under ten yard per completion. He threw two interceptions that killed Pittsburgh drives, the first of which led to a Colts' field goal at the end of the first half. He managed one touchdown toss, a very nice 12 yard bullet to Hines Ward. Ward was Roethlisberger's favorite target. He also contributed on the ground, scrambling for over 20 yards on three carries. He did not appear limited by the knee surgery and moved around in the pocket well. On the plays where he was knocked down, he didn’t seem to have any trouble with the knee.
Parker was the most effective of the Pittsburgh running backs, although that isn't saying much. Of his 43 yards, 26 came on the last drive of the game, during garbage time. He was Roethlisberger's only running back target in the passing game, catching all four balls thrown his way.
Bettis, like the rest of the Pittsburgh running game, never got on track. He averaged less than 1.5 yards per carry.
Staley had three rushing attempts, and wasn't much of a factor in the game.
Kreider, the team's fullback, had a nice seven yard run on his sole carry of the game.
Wilson had the Steelers' longest play of the game, a 35 yard reception on a nice throw from a scrambling Roethlisberger.
Ward only managed three receptions, but one of them was the Steelers only touchdown of the game. It was a 12 yard catch during the first half. There were a lot of close calls throughout the game that were just out of Ward's reach. He was Roethlisberger's favorite target.
Randle El had two receptions, although one went for a loss of three yards. He appeared visibly frustrated on the sidelines at the end of the game.
Morgan had one catch on the Steelers' last drive of the first half.
Miller converted a high percentage of his targets in receptions, for a low per catch average.
Reed made his one PAT, but missed a crucial 41 yard field goal that would have tied the game in the first half.
Edgerrin James didn't bust out on any huge runs during the game, but he was consistently finding holes for five to nine yard gains. The Steelers' run defense allowed their first 100 yard rusher in 23 games. They managed to prevent any rushing touchdowns.
Peyton Manning lit up the defense early, taking advantage of a secondary that bit on play action to hit Marvin Harrison for an 80 yard touchdown on the Colts' first play from scrimmage. While Manning didn't hit 300 yards, he did throw two scores. The second strike went to tight end Bryan Fletcher on the opening possession of the second half. Troy Polamalu intercepted Manning in the first half and returned the ball inside the Colts' ten yard line. This set up the Steelers' only score of the game. The defense sacked Manning twice.
Manning had an effective, but not incredible fantasy outing against the Steelers. He threw touchdowns passes on the Colts' opening drives of each half: the first to Marvin Harrison, the second to tight end Bryan Fletcher. He threw a costly interception in the first half that gave the Steelers a glimmer of hope, as the turnover was converted into seven points. After scoring to open the second half, Manning managed his team on long drives that consumed lots of clock.
James turned in yet another workhorse performance. He didn't have any huge gains, but he was remarkably consistent in gaining solid chunks of yardage that prevented the Pittsburgh defense from keying on the Colts' passing game. He didn't find the end zone, but rushing for over 100 yards against the vaunted Pittsburgh rush defense was an accomplishment in itself. Surprisingly, he didn't receive a single passing target. He contributed to the passing game though with the respect Pittsburgh gave him on the play action pass. He consistently drew coverage in which allowed Manning to look deep for his receivers.
Mungro received two carries late in the game.
Rhodes had one carry late in the game.
Wayne showcased his hands in the game, making some nice catches. His five receptions led the team.
Harrison was Manning's primary passing target in the game. He scored an 80 yard touchdown on the Colts' first play of the game, burning his defender who bit on play action. He did see several passes that were off the mark, although he did manage a 120 yard receiving game.
Stokley had a nice eight yard snag.
Fletcher received a surprising amount of attention in the passing game, particularly in the second half. Peyton Manning found him for a 12 yard touchdown on the opening drive of the second half.
Clark finished with two receptions totaling just under 20 yards.
Utecht's only target was incomplete.
Vanderjagt was perfect, making field goals of 29, 48, 44, and 28 yards. He also connected on both of his PATs.
The Colts shut down the Steelers’ running game. All told, the Steelers only managed 83 yards on the ground. No Pittsburgh back finished with more than 43 yards, and most of those came during garbage time. The running game was rendered ineffective and allowed the Colts' defense to focus on stopping Roethlisberger and the passing game.
Ben Roethlisberger managed to complete a high percentage of his passes, particularly early in the game. Otherwise, the Colts' pass defense played superbly. The kept the yards per catch very low and only allowed Roethlisberger 133 yards through the air. They also picked off two of the Pittsburgh quarterback's passes, killing any momentum the Steelers attempted to gain. The only touchdown surrendered came after a Peyton Manning interception that gave the Steelers an extremely short field.