INDIANAPOLIS — The Pittsburgh Steelers said they were treating Saturday’s Week 15 game against the Indianapolis Colts like a playoff game, and while they have not been technically eliminated, their season feels essentially over.
The Steelers followed a similar formula to recent weeks, suffering through more sloppy and inconsistent offense, a beat-up defense that seems to have run out of answers for its personnel loses, and a generally sloppy, inattentive posture in a 30-13 loss to the Colts.
On offense, Mitch Trubisky led scoring drives two of the first three possessions — though one was only a 1-yard drive after a blocked punt. After that, things fell apart quickly.
Trubisky finished an abysmal 16 of 23 for 169 yards. He offset his one early touchdown with two interceptions, both poorly thrown passes intended for George Pickens.
On defense, the game turned in the second quarter, when on consecutive plays, the Steelers’ safety depth evaporated.
Damontae Kazee laid out for a huge hit against Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman. He was flagged for a personal foul — another trend in this game — and ejected. On the next play, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Trenton Thompson collided breaking up a pass. Fitzpatrick suffered a left knee injury and did not return.
That was the end of the Steelers’ pass defense.
From there, Gardner Minshew diced up the unit that was already playing without both starting linebackers. The Indianapolis backup connected on scoring strikes to running back Zack Moss, practice squad wide receiver D.J. Montgomery and tight end Mo Alie-Cox, as the Colts scored 30 unanswered points to run away with the game.
Kazee’s ejection was far from the end of the penalty issues. At one point, the Steelers took three holding penalties on the same offensive possession. They finished with eight accepted penalties for 101 yards.
The kicker — literally — came in the fourth quarter. With the Steelers trailing by 11 points, the aforementioned drive was stalled by the the third of those holding penalties. Facing a fourth and long and what would have been a 57-yard field goal, head coach Mike Tomlin first sent out kicker Chris Boswell before swapping him for punter Presley Harvin III.
Harvin popped up a 22-yard punt, and the Steelers never remotely came close to scoring again.
The loss moves the Steelers out of the AFC playoff picture, and combined with the Cincinnati Bengals win earlier in the day, moved the team to last place in the division at 7-7. The Steelers are not technically eliminated from playoff contention, but will likely need to win each of their final three games to have a shot, and may need outside help beyond that.