Week 19 Game Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Indianapolis Colts 18
What you need to know
The Steelers became the first number six seed to advance to a championship game after overcoming the highly favored Colts.
Ben Roethlisberger began the game looking to throw the football and he led the Steelers to a score on their opening drive by finding Antwaan Randle El for a six yard touchdown reception. Roethlisberger also found Heath Miller for another score and had 172 yards and two touchdowns by the half. He only attempted five passes in the second half due to the score and also possibly due to taking a big hit on his right arm.
Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis shared the load on the ground and combined for 25 carries in the second half as the Steelers tried to eat up the clock after establishing a 21-3 lead. Bettis scored on a one yard run in the third quarter.
The Steelers’ defense was extremely effective for the first three quarters. They were quick to the tackle and pressured Manning well, sacking him a total of five times.
The Colts clinched home field advantage on December 11th and began resting players after they lost to the Chargers the following week. We will never know how much that affected them, but they began the game slowly and trailed 14-3 at the half.
Peyton Manning looked to be struggling to establish a connection with his receivers and he did not complete a pass until over 12 minutes had elapsed. He had 199 yards passing in the second half and almost brought the team back from an 18 point deficit in the fourth quarter, but Mike Vanderjagt missed what would have been the tying field goal.
Dallas Clark evaded three defenders to turn a Manning pass into a 50 yard touchdown, but Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne did not see much action until late in the game.
When he ran, Edgerrin James was effective running the football but his touches were limited once the Steelers built a commanding lead. James scored on a three yard run to give the Colts hope with a little over four minutes remaining, but he could not repeat his 100 yard day from the regular season.
The Colts’ defense did their utmost to keep the team in the game after being dominated throughout the first half. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were able to pressure Roethlisberger, but the defense allowed two touchdowns in the first quarter and the Colts were unable to recover.
What you ought to know
Roethlisberger came out throwing, and connected with Heath Miller for a 36 yard gain on the second play from scrimmage. He was five of six for 76 yards on the Steelers’ opening possession with Antwaan Randle El scoring a six yard touchdown to end the drive. Roethlisberger was hit by Freeney on the Steelers’ second drive, causing the ball to be intercepted by Cato June. He came back strongly on the following drive, hitting Hines Ward for a 45 yard gain before finding Heath Miller open in the end zone for a seven yard touchdown. Roethlisberger was fortunate to avoid an interception late in the first half as Mike Doss dropped a pass intended for Cedrick Wilson. By the half, Roethlisberger had accumulated 172 passing yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. He showed good mobility and was able to evade a strong pass rush on several occasions. The second half was a total contrast with Roethlisberger completing two of five passes for 25 yards. He was seen shaking his right arm after a hit from the helmet of Robert Mathis on the Steelers’ opening possession of the second half. Whether he was limited after the hit or was simply being asked to run out the clock due to the game situation is unclear, but he played the entire game. Roethlisberger made a vital tackle when he found himself as the last man after Nick Harper recovered a fumble with just over a minute left.
Parker started the game for the Steelers but was held to short gains in the first half. He was able to find more room in the second half and began it with a nine yard carry and a 12 yard reception. He had an 11 yard gain for a first down on the Steelers’ second possession of the second half, before giving way to Jerome Bettis who completed the drive with a one yard score. Parker had a 13 yard gain early in the fourth quarter after Mike Doss missed a tackle at the line of scrimmage, but gave way to Bettis in the closing stages with the game on the line.
Bettis entered the game earlier than usual and had a seven yard carry on the Steelers’ opening drive. Fifteen of his seventeen carries came in the second half after the Steelers looked to use up time by running the football. He converted a third down on the Steelers’ opening possession of the second half, and had five consecutive carries that ended with a one yard touchdown run. Bettis converted on fourth and inches on the following possession and looked almost unstoppable in short yardage situations. The Colts failed to convert a fourth down late in the game, giving the Steelers possession at the Colts’ two yard line. Bettis carried and fumbled away possession, but was relieved to see Mike Vanderjagt miss a tying field goal at the end of the ensuing drive. Bettis ended the day with 17 carries, the same as Parker.
Haynes gained five yards when he carried on third and three, but did little else in the game.
Kreider was given one carry on which he ran for two yards and a first down.
Randle El dropped a routine pass on the opening play of the game but quickly atoned for his error. He made an 11 yard catch to convert on third and six and then got open in the end zone enabling Roethlisberger to find him for a six yard touchdown. He was unlucky not to draw an interference call in the second quarter when Roethlisberger targeted him deep and Marlin Jackson looked to have hit Randle El before the ball arrived. He had a 13 yard reception on the Steelers’ opening drive of the second half before the Steelers switched almost exclusively to the running game. Randle El also returned five punts for a total of 50 yards.
Ward only saw six targets in the entire game and all three of his receptions came in the first half. His biggest contribution came on the Steelers’ third possession when he was targeted long for a 45 yard gain. He also drew a 15 yard penalty for a face mask on the play. Ward had an 18 yard catch on second and twenty but the Steelers were unable to convert on the following play.
Wilson was targeted twice in the game and did not make a catch. One pass was almost picked off by Mike Doss.
Miller began the game strongly by making a 36 yard reception on the opening drive, and then an 18 yard catch on second and eight to keep the drive alive. On the Steelers’ third possession he was able to get open in the end zone and Roethlisberger found him for a seven yard touchdown reception.
Tuman caught one of his targets for a 19 yard gain and a first down. Roethlisberger looked for him again but Dwight Freeney hit his arm and caused the ball to be intercepted on one play, and the other target fell incomplete.
Reed made all three extra point attempts but was not required to try and field goals.
The Steelers closed down the run early, but Edgerrin James found success later in the first half. He was given a carry at the three yard line but the Steelers held. The Colts abandoned the run in the second half and James had just three carries, but one went for a three yard touchdown with under five minutes remaining in the game. The lack of a reliable running game enabled the Steelers to apply more pressure on Manning.
The pass defense virtually shut the Colts down in the first half, holding Manning to 91 yards and sacking him twice. Troy Polamalu had a big game. He almost had two interceptions before he was credited with a pick on the Colts’ fourth possession of the second half. The play was challenged and overturned after a review. James Farrior had eight solo tackles and two assists, as well as 2.5 sacks. Joey Porter had 1.5 sacks and Kimo Von Oelhoffen had the other. Until the final quarter, the defense stifled Manning and gave him very little time to make plays. The only big error came when Dallas Clark broke several tackles and ran away from three defenders to score a 50 yard touchdown.
Manning did not look good in the early stages of the game, and failed to complete his first five passes. He finally completed a pass with 2:35 remaining in the first quarter when Marvin Harrison made a superb one handed catch. Manning was constantly under pressure from the Steelers’ pass rush and did not look effective until the Colts’ fifth possession when he started to find open receivers. Manning was held to 91 yards in the first half but he improved after the break and gained a further 199 yards. He gave the Colts hope when he waved the punt team off the field on fourth and two at his own 36 before he found Dallas Clark for a 50 yard touchdown on the Colts’ third possession of the second half, but he was almost intercepted on three occasions by Troy Polamalu and survived a scare when a ruled interception was overturned. He was almost tackled for a safety before his forward progress gave the Colts possession at their own one yard line on another drive. Manning had never led the team to victory in the playoffs after trailing at the start of the fourth quarter, but he came close to achieving that in this game. He brought the team to within three points by finding Reggie Wayne for a two point conversion after an Edgerrin James score, and then led a drive to put the Colts within field goal range at the end of the game. Unfortunately for Manning, the kick was missed by Mike Vanderjagt.
The Steelers restricted James to a total of six yards on his first four carries, but he started to make a few impressive gains after that. On the Colts’ fifth drive, James had runs of ten yards, 15 yards and nine yards, all for first downs. He then caught a pass at the Steelers’ six yard line and was stopped about a foot short of the goal line. He was unable to convert from three yards out after a penalty. James only carried the ball three times in the second half as the Steelers built a big lead and forced the Colts to throw, but he did score on a three yard touchdown run after a good second effort with 4:24 remaining in the game.
Rhodes only had one carry in the game and also bobbled two kick off returns.
Mungro scored from a yard out on the Colts’ fifth drive of the first half, but the touchdown was ruled out due to a holding penalty.
Wayne was Manning’s favorite target on the day with 15 targets. He only had two catches for a total of 17 yards in the first half but was much more involved after the break. He caught a nine yard pass for a first down in double coverage on the opening drive of the second half and had a 24 yard gain on the Colts’ fourth possession of the second half. He made a great catch for another 24 yard gain on the same drive to give the Colts a first and goal at the three yard line. After Edgerrin James went in from three yards, Manning found Wayne in the corner of the end zone for a two point conversion (actually seven yards due to a penalty). Wayne showed good technique to get both feet down in bounds. Wayne had a 22 yard reception on the Colts’ final drive to put them in field goal range, and Manning almost found him for a 28 yard touchdown but Wayne was unable to bring in the pass after apparently being interfered with.
Harrison was responsible for Manning’s first completion of the game when he caught a pass one-handed for a 24 yard gain. Harrison had a 20 yard reception on third and one in the second half, but ended the day with just three catches for a total of 52 yards.
Stokley was targeted on fourth and two at the Colts’ 36 and made an important 13 yard reception for a first down. His other target fell incomplete.
Clark was targeted once in the first half and he turned it into a 21 yard gain for a first down. He caught his other three targets, the longest of which went for a 50 yard touchdown after Clark evaded multiple tackles and outran three defenders.
Fletcher had catches of 11 yards and seven yards for first downs on the Colts’ first scoring drive. He dropped a pass in the second half and was the target when Manning was apparently intercepted by Polamalu, but the play was challenged and overturned.
Vanderjagt entered the game with a perfect record in playoff games, but he missed a 46 yard attempt in the final minute which would have tied the game. The kick was a long way right and never had a chance. Vanderjagt made a 20 yard field goal to get the Colts on the board in the first half and converted his one extra point try.
The rush defense only allowed 2.7 yards per carry as the Steelers switched almost exclusively to the run in the second half. Although the plays were predictable, the Colts gave up two fourth down conversions on the ground and a one yard touchdown to Jerome Bettis. Gary Brackett forced a fumble to give the Colts a chance in the closing moments when he hit Bettis hard and knocked the ball out with his helmet.
The Colts were caught out early in the game as the Steelers effectively threw the ball. Roethlisberger gained 76 yards passing on the Steelers’ opening possession, ending with a six yard touchdown pass to Antwaan Randle El. The Colts allowed gains of 36 yards and 18 yards to Heath Miller on the drive. On the Steelers’ third possession, the Colts allowed Hines Ward a 45 yard reception before Miller scored on a seven yard reception from Roethlisberger. Nick Harper missed a little time when suffering a knee injury after being hit by his own player, but he returned and recovered a fumble late in the game. The pass defense saw little action in the second half as the Steelers attempted just five passes. Dwight Freeney was a problem for the Steelers. He gained one sack and hit Roethlisberger’s arm on another play that ended up as an interception for Cato June. Tripplett also registered a sack. Mike Doss had a good chance for an interception but couldn’t hang on to the ball.