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Steelers take care of business in comeback win over Colts

No. Just no.

Just to make the search engines happy, let’s report that the Steelers defeated the Colts 20-17 Sunday on Chris Boswell‘s walk-off field goal.

But they trailed 17-3 early in the third quarter. This had the feel of one of “those” losses.

No. Just no.

If the Steelers had lost at Indianapolis Sunday, it would have been more vexing than their customary flops against weak opponents.

The Colts’ 3-6 record entering the game didn’t do their ineptitude justice.

This is a participation-trophy franchise that raised an “AFC finalist” banner to the rafters of Lucas Oil Stadium after reaching the 2014 AFC championship game and losing 45-7 to the Patriots.

This is a franchise that’s running Jacoby Brissett out there at quarterback because it put all its eggs in the Andrew-Luck-will-be-ready-for-Week-1 basket after Luck had shoulder surgery in January.

Those eggs all cracked, and the Colts were forced to scramble days before the season and trade Phillip Dorsett to the Patriots for Brissett, their third-stringer.

That Patriots’ yard-sale piece threw two touchdown passes Sunday to receivers who are buried on the depth chart like he once was in New England.

Brissett threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Donte Moncrief in the first half and a 61-yarder to Chester Rogers to give the Colts that 17-3 lead in the third quarter.

It was starting to look like the Steelers had no interest in the top seed in the AFC that’s right in front of their nose. Not only were they avoiding Luck on Sunday, because of injuries they’re also dodging encounters with Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson between now and the end of the season, and they have just two road games remaining on their schedule.

The Steelers (7-2) haven’t enjoyed a first-round bye in the playoffs since 2010, the last year they went to the Super Bowl. If they win their remaining games, including a home game against the Patriots in Week 15, they’ll have not only a bye but home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. It’s that simple.

On Sunday, however, the Steelers looked like they were trying to make it complicated.

Antonio Brown dropped a deep pass that was right on his hands. Jordan Berry had to punt three times on the same play because of holding penalties. Martavis Bryant didn’t seem to understand the concept of forward.

Maybe the Steelers wanted to get another loss or two under their belts because they enjoy scoreboard watching so much in December.

No. Just no.

With Steelers fans ready to drown their sorrows in an Iron City, the only Steeler too young to drink once again came to the rescue.

JuJu Smith-Schuster caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger on the drive following Rogers’ touchdown. He set it up by catching a 44-yard pass from Roethlisberger.

The point-after was blocked, and Matthias Farley nearly ran it back for what would have been two points and a 19-9 Colts lead, but Jesse James caught him at the Steelers’ 2-yard line.

Suddenly, the Steelers showed some hustle. It’s like they remembered that first-round byes are for teams that take care of business against inferior competition.

This second-half spark spread to the Steelers’ defense, which except for those two breakdowns was its usual stout self (who knew in August that “stout” and “Steelers’ defense” would be used in the same sentence in 2017).

With 13 minutes left in the game, Ryan Shazier intercepted Brissett at the Colts’ 10-yard line. The Steelers tied the game soon after when Roethlisberger threw a 7-yard TD pass to tight end Vance McDonald. The offensive line, with all its starters healthy for the first time since Week 2, provided Roethlisberger enough time to find McDonald, who snuck through the coverage and had no one near him in the end zone.

Bryant caught the game-tying 2-point conversion. Bryant, Brown and Boswell put the finishing touches on their redemption songs on the game-winning drive.

Bryant caught a 19-yard pass on third-and-4 from the Steelers’ 31 with 53 seconds left. Brown, who was held to three catches, caught one for 32 yards on the next play to get the Steelers to the 18.

Boswell, who clanked a 37-yard field goal attempt off the goal post on the previous drive, ended the game by making a 33-yarder.

In a season in which 30 was supposed to be the magic number for the Steelers offense, they scored 20 for the second straight game. Thanks to their defense, the Steelers are 6-0 when scoring 20 or more points. They’re 1-2 when they don’t score 20, and in that one win they scored 19 at Kansas City.

Maybe it’s time to play 19 and 20 in the lottery. The former is Smith-Schuster’s uniform number and the latter is his age until Nov. 22. It’s not a stretch to say that he led to the Steelers to Sunday’s victory. He was the team leader in both receptions (five) and receiving yards (97).

Le’Veon Bell was held to 80 yards on 26 carries and Roethlisberger was typically pedestrian for this stage of his career, completing 19 of 31 passes for 236 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He did reach back about 10 years to escape pressure on that 32-yard pass to Brown that moved the Steelers into game-winning field goal range.

It’s been 10 years since the last time the Steelers were 7-2. It was 2007, Mike Tomlin’s first year as head coach. They sputtered to a 10-6 finish and a wild-card loss partly because running back Willie Parker broke his leg in Week 16.

The Steelers better hope history doesn’t repeat itself. Bell hasn’t finished a season healthy since 2013. Their Super Bowl hopes depend on his ability to do that this year.

And it’s looking more and more like Smith-Schuster will be just as indispensable.

 Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

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1 comment

  1. RALPH harris


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