INDIANAPOLIS — The third quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 24-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts was one to forget for Kenny Pickett and Pittsburgh’s offense.
The final quarter proved another matter entirely.
After failing to complete a pass in the third quarter, Pickett sprang to life on the Steelers’ first drive of the fourth quarter, taking the Steelers 75 yards in 5:21 for what proved to be the game’s final score. Pickett capped off the drive with two excellent reads, first spotting a hole in the Colts’ defense that Benny Snell ran through for a two-yard touchdown and then squeezing a pass to George Pickens for the two-point conversion.
When the defense followed with a pair of stops, Pickett had his first career fourth-quarter comeback as well as his first road win, taking a big step forward in his maturation in the process.
“It’s a tough deal when you can’t get things going, but it just takes that one play to spring everyone,” Pickett said. “That’s what happened. We were able to turn it around, and nobody had any doubts or any second thoughts that we weren’t going to come back and win the game.
“I think that’s huge to see the confidence of everybody in the huddle. We had no doubt that we were going to come out with the win.”
The play that proved to be the springboard for the Steelers (4-7) came on a 3rd and 9 from their own 26, when Pickett connected with Pickens for 13 yards and a first down, drawing a roughing the passer call against linebacker E.J. Speed. Five of the Steelers’ next seven plays went for at least eight yards, as Pickett picked apart the Colts’ coverage and set the Steelers up deep in the red zone.
“We have him in there because we think he’s capable of that,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “He proved it, and I’m sure he’s going to get a lot of other opportunities moving forward to prove that. We need people that run toward action, not away from it, and he runs toward it.”
Prior to Monday night, it hadn’t yet made a difference in the fourth quarter, as Pittsburgh entered the game 0-6 when it entered the final 15 minutes trailing. But unlike the loss to Cincinnati last week, the Steelers’ offense didn’t let second-half adversity overwhelm its efforts. Rather than letting an opponent’s comeback take them out of their game, the Steelers stepped up when their backs were against the wall.
“When we needed them the most, they helped us out,” safety Terrell Edmunds said. “I wouldn’t say I learned anything I didn’t know (about Pickett). He’s just a competitor, and we all know that and we’re all riding for him.”
One of the best examples of Pickett meeting the moment showed up as the Colts tried to get the Steelers off the field in the final quarter. Pittsburgh faced five third downs in the game’s final 15 minutes, and the Steelers converted four of them. The only failure came on the one third down of the quarter that was longer than 10 yards, and even then, the Steelers kept the clock moving and set up a successful punt, forcing the Colts to try to drive 93 yards to even the score.
“He’s getting better every week, and it’s in a very natural way because of experience,” Tomlin said. “But he’s good enough and we’re good enough to win games while that happens, so we’re not grading him on a curve.”
Monday’s performance suggests that Pickett understands that completely. This wasn’t a great statistical night for the rookie, as he threw for just 174 yards and no touchdowns, but he took what the Colts’ defense made available and made smart reads, which allowed the offense to come together when it mattered most.
“I think it’s just chemistry and believing in what we’re doing,” Pickett said. “We’re showing up to work every day, and every guy in that locker room wants to win. We’re doing everything it takes to go out there and win, and if you have that, you’ve got a shot.”