INDIANAPOLIS — The Pittsburgh Steelers took down the Indianapolis Colts behind a strong performance from Kenny Pickett against a solid Colts defense. Pickett persevered over the Colts despite a modest stat line of 20 for 28 for 174 yards and no touchdowns. His performance powered the Steelers to victory along with a strong rushing attack that averaged 4.8 yards per carry.
Pittsburgh’s running backs and Pickett combined for an efficient game, even after Najee Harris left the game for good with an abdominal injury. Benny Snell took over and ran for a touchdown and over five yards per carry in relief of Harris and the injured Jaylen Warren.
The Steelers jumped out to a quickly comfortable lead in the first quarter. On their first drive, Pickett opted to get Diontae Johnson involved early while a running back by committee approached ran the ball effectively. A holding penalty by Dan Moore Jr. stalled the drive, and Matthew Wright kicked a field goal.
Pittsburgh’s first half defense was stellar. By the end of the first quarter, the Colts had zero total yards. They did not break through until midway through second quarter with a quality drive from Jonathan Taylor. However, their fascination with throwing the ball left their receivers overexposed and Ryan struggled mightily, including an interception by James Pierre.
On the ensuing possession, the Steelers engineered a methodical, precise drive that was capped off by a Harris on a 6-yard touchdown. Pittsburgh’s rushing attack continued to strengthen, though the team continued to fall short on the Colts’ side of the field. Wright booted two more field goals through the uprights and Pittsburgh took a 16-3 lead into the half.
In the third quarter, the Colts responded. Isaiah Rodgers ripped off a massive kick return to start the half and get the Colts within striking range. Indianapolis rode Taylor, its All-Pro running back into the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown.
The Steelers got off to a slow start in the second half for the second straight game, going three and out on their first possession. The Colts got the ball back and drove the length of the field, but Ryan fumbled an exchange between him and Taylor and Chris Wormley wrestled the ball away from the quarterback at the bottom of the pile to keep the Colts off the board.
But the Colts kept coming. After another Indianapolis defensive stop for a three-and-out, the Colts drove down the field again, with Ryan finding an open Michael Pittman for a touchdown over Pierre to give Indianapolis a 17-16 lead. In 15 minutes, the Steelers’ two score lead had completely collapsed.
Pickett responded by engineering perhaps his best drive of the entire season. It started with a critical 3rd-and-9 conversion when Pickett hit George Pickens in a tight window for the first down. As the drive continued, Pickett connected with Johnson and Pat Freiermuth for key conversions. Snell ran hard to lead the Steelers to the redzone. On third and goal, Snell made a gorgeous jump cut to get into the end zone.
Pickett was not done there. He escaped out to the pocket to the right to find Pickens kneeling in the corner near the pylon for a two-point conversion to make the game 24-17.
The Colts again drove the length of the field in the game’s final minutes, looking for a game-tying score. Indianapolis faced a critical 4th and 3, and Ryan zinged the ball to Pittman for a first down. On the next play, Alex Highsmith warped around the edge and sacked Ryan for a forced fumble to back up the Colts to 2nd and 17. Ryan uncharacteristically hightailed out of a pocket for a 15-yard scamper on the next play.
On 4-and-3, Ryan rolled out of the pocket, looking for Parris Campbell, but Cam Sutton and Minkah Fitzpatrick broke up the pass to force the turnover on downs. Pickett and the offense came on to kneel out the clock. The Steelers now, 4-7, will travel to Atlanta as they try to knock off another team on the road to improve to 6-7 on the season overall.