Pittsburgh, PA —
In a game where the Steelers were heavily favored, tides turned over and over again, showing that the Colts weren’t ready to roll over into a fetal position just yet this 2011NFL season. In a game of inches, both teams found they often had to be happy with half that on offense. The Colts were as stingy on defense as the Steelers were. Even as Ben Roethlisberger watched (offensive) lineman after lineman being helped off the field and Rashard Mendenhall being corralled, he also experienced the mind-numbing blast of Colts linebackers rushing in from the blind side for sack fumbles; turnovers the Steelers couldn’t afford. The Steelers won the game 23-20 off of a Shaun Suisham field goal kick, but their battle to return to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI has just begun, and won’t be an easy task.
Showing leadership despite pressure and a Colts defense that punished the O-line, Roethlisberger led attack after attack in a fairly balanced offensive set in the first quarter. Although the running game was contained, Roethlisberger found receiver Mike Wallace twice for long yardage, including an 81-yard touchdown. Add that to a Suisham field goal, and the Steelers showed determination and dominance.
The second quarter became a 15-minute nightmare as the Colts, seeing a lack of overall production by quarterback Kerry Collins, came on strong on defense and caused three turnovers to take the wind out of the Steelers’ offensive sails. With a 3rd and 11 on the Indianapolis 47, Roethlisberger wasn’t protected from the oncoming rush of R. Mathis and lost the ball as he was hit. Mathis was able to recover the ball for the Colts. The Steelers defense held and the Colts were forced to settle for 3 points after the takeaway. In the next offensive series, Roethlisberger was sacked by D. Freeney on a 2-10 play at the Indianapolis 48 and the resulting fumble was recovered by J. Anderson who was able to scoop up the ball for a defensive touchdown. The first play following the kickoff by the Colts, Roethlisberger made a poor call and threw a deep pass down the left-side of the field, intended for Emmanual Sanders, and into the arms of J. Lefeged. Once again the Steelers defense forced Indianapolis to settle for a field goal. At the end of the half the score was 13 to 10 in favor of the Colts.
The second half of the game became a survival of the fittest and a battle of wits between defensive units who kept offensive numbers low for both the Steelers and the Colts. After Kerry Collins was evaluated for a concussion, Curtis Painter, who entered the game with a career quarterback rating of 9.8. Regardless, Painter was able to record 5 of 11 passes for 60 yards (a 62.7 rating) and led the Colts to a Joseph Addai 6-yard run for a touchdown. With 2:09 to go, the two teams were tied.
Steelers fans let out the breath they’d been holding when James Harrison was able to get to Painter for a sack and a fumble that was scooped up by a rushing Troy Polamalu and taken 16 yards for a touchdown. The veteran Steelers then pulled on the strings and orchestrated a drive which allowed Suisham to redeem himself for an earlier field goal miss by sealing the fate of the Colts with 3 points between the uprights. Following Polamalu’s fumble return, Roethlisberger was able to drive the Steelers down the field 60 yards to set up the kick.
After the game, Roethlisberger said, “Our defense…they’re fun to watch. They make exciting plays when they need to, and they’re on my side.”
Polamalu also had a near-strip when Painter handed the ball off to Addai on a rushing play late in the game. His hand actually slapped the arm of Painter as Addai wrapped his hands around the ball. It was a near-miss that put a smile on Polamalu’s face because it had been incredibly close. Polamalu was all over the field, and then mixing up safety blitzes from both the right and left sides of the defensive line, disrupting Painter’s rhythm enough to keep the Colts bottled up and fighting for an edge. In the end, his efforts were enough to redeem the Steelers in an ugly yet hard-fought win.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he wasn’t concerned whether the game looked bad, then added, “We just want to get out of stadiums with wins.”
Roethlisberger was 25 of 37 for 364 yards and one touchdown. Mike Wallace led the receivers with five passes for 144 yards and an 81-yard score; the longest TD reception of his career. Wallace recorded his sixth straight 100-yard (receiving) game. Roethlisberger’s 81-yard toss to Wallace was the third longest of the quarterback’s career.
The path back to the Super Bowl will not be an easy road to travel. The Colts let the Steelers know that they couldn’t just walk into their home and take it away without putting some sweat on the field as well. The fact that the Steelers are averse to playing gritty or ugly shows that they must continue to improve and maintain a level of intensity in order to see Indianapolis again in the off-season.
Mike Tomlin post-game press conference
Steelers v. Colts highlight video
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