For a game that was supposed to be a blowout, that game was wayyyyyyyyy too close. There are certain games that take years off my life, and this one certainly adjusted my life expectancy considerably.
There were definitely some positives despite how nerve racking it was, but as always, I’m going to break things down by each player or group of players.
- · Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown: These two almost single handedly won the game for the Steelers. The running game was absolutely abysmal, as the Colts’ defensive ends were able to contain the team to just 67 yards total, with Mendenhall carrying the ball 18 times for just 37 yards. Ben was forced to throw to convert long third downs, and thankfully, either Wallace or Brown was able to step up time and again to keep drives alive. Wallace’s 81 yard touchdown turned out to be the only touchdown scored by the offense, and his explosive 144 yard performance made a huge difference in the game. Similarly, Brown really asserted himself as a big part of the offense, while both Emmanuel Sanders and Hines Ward struggled. Sanders in particular dropped a sure touchdown on the team’s first drive, which would have changed the whole composition of the game, but thankfully the others were there to pick up the slack. Without them, I’m convinced this game would have been a loss, as they were the only things that really went right for the team all game.
- · The offensive line: I know it’s unfair to be too tough on the line considering the quality of the defensive line they were facing, and the injuries they suffered, but if Wallace and Brown were the reason the team won, the offensive line was the reason they almost lost. Jonathan Scott, Marcus Gilbert, and eventually Trai Essex, were absolutely manhandled by Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The rest of the line certainly didn’t work wonders either, but the tackles in particular were abused time and again to make sustained offensive success nearly impossible. The lack of a running game was entirely the fault of line, and Ben’s two fumbles were the complete result of him having little to no time to look down the field. The team’s struggles in the red zone were undoubtedly largely due to Ben’s lack of time to let plays develop to make something happen. Even before Gilbert went out, he looked absolutely atrocious, and while putting a rookie against one of the better pass rushing tandems in the NFL certainly isn’t an ideal matchup, he didn’t show a whole lot. Scott looked similarly lost, and while he showed some decent foot speed, both Freeney and Mathis made the adjustment to start bull-rushing Scott midway through the game, and he quickly became a liability as well. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, as the line will be facing off against the Texans, and pass rushers like Mario Williams and Antonio Smith, so next week may be rough as well.
- · Ike Taylor: I won’t lie, Ike Taylor has consistently been my least favorite Steeler over the last five years or so. His ability to drop easy interceptions and relentless insistence on listing his college as “swaggin’” for team introductions has made me really grow to dislike the team’s number one corner. You can imagine how I felt when the team signed him to a lengthy extension this offseason, but Ike has really made me change my tune. He completely shut down Reggie Wayne last night, allowing him just three catches on 13 targets. The quarterback duo of Collins and Painter definitely had something to do with that, but Taylor has looked like every bit the shutdown corner we’ve always wanted him to be, as he’s looked downright dominant in every game this year. He’s been a similarly big part of the team’s success, even when the defense struggled, as it did again last night.
- · The run defense: And speaking of the defense, once again, yikes. Without the atrocious quarterback play, the Colts would have almost certainly taken this game. Joseph Addai didn’t exactly look like a Pro Bowler in this game, but against a team of this caliber last year, the defense would’ve locked down on the run game completely, and forced the shaky QBs into committing turnovers that could’ve led to scores. Instead, Addai piled up 86 yards, and the team’s ability to run allowed Indys’ quarterbacks to avoid those mistakes, at least until Painter’s costly fumble at the end of the game. It’s been a disturbing trend, starting with Ray Rice’s evisceration of the team in Week 1, and although the Seahawks struggled against them last week, that’s hardly shocking. The linebackers still don’t seem totally in sync, and the numbers are definitely concerning. Last year, the team finished first in the league with just 62 yards allowed per game. This year, they’re close to 100. Definitely something to keep an eye on.
For all these negatives, it’s easy to forget that the Colts aren’t an absolutely horrible team. Obviously, they’re not the same without Manning, but they still have the defensive ability to cause problems for a team with offensive line issues like the Steelers. It’s also worth considering the sizable home field advantage they possess with the crowd noise in their dome, so the fact that everyone was expecting this game to be a big blowout was probably a little unrealistic.
I will also say that it’s a sign of the team’s character that they were able to pull out the win in this one, since this is absolutely the type of game that a bad team would let slip through their fingers. It seemed eerily similar to the type of games that the post-Super Bowl teams of 2006 and 2009 would give away on a regular basis, so it does give me confidence that they came away with a win.
However, this upcoming road game against Houston makes me REALLY nervous, and if some of these issues aren’t addressed, next week may very well be ugly.Back to the Pittsburgh Steelers Newsfeed