Steelers piece together victory over Colts
The offense the Steelers are trying to learn outscored the offense they already know so well, even after the double numbers started showing up for both Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.
Ben Roethlisberger showed off a tad more of Todd Haley's offense-in-progress, stretching the defense slightly more, too, while throwing for 81 yards and a touchdown in slightly more than one quarter of a 26-24 preseason win over the Colts on Sunday night at Heinz Field.
An under-pressure Roethlisberger rarely had time to go downfield 10 days earlier against the Eagles — and it wasn't certain if he even wanted to. Roethlisberger ran a controlled but not conservative passing game Sunday, although the first team's lone touchdown — Antonio Brown's 57-yard scoring catch — came on a screen pass play that was finished off by Baron Batch's pinball block on two Colts.
“I had a two-way option and I gave it to him,” said Roethlisberger, whose play-action fake freed up Brown. “I thought he'd get the first down, and he ended up getting a little more.”
Brown punctuated the touchdown by doing a back flip into the end zone. A little Olympics gymnastics watching while in training camp, perhaps?
“It was an 8.5,” Brown said. “I've got to stick the landing.”
Batch, the second-year back who is getting more playing time with Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman injured, said it wasn't by accident he stuck a couple of defenders.
“During practice, they always tell us to run after the ball, especially coach (Kirby Wilson), he'll definitely let you know if you don't do it,” Batch said. “It's something we work on every day in practice.”
A screen pass with a couple of blockers leading the way. Shades of Bruce Arians — and, coincidentally, the former Steelers offensive coordinator was on the opposing sideline overseeing the development of Andrew Luck, who looked just like a No. 1 draft pick should while playing the entire first half.
Luck, like Roethlisberger, was intercepted early. Ike Taylor, the man with the usually unreliable hands, sliced in front of Reggie Wayne to grab a Luck pass and return it 49 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter to make it 14-0.
“Ike's been working on his hands and he showed it,” linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. Taylor laughed at that, but he became serious when he said that turning the ball over must be a priority for a team that was a minus-13 in turnover differential last season.
“We try to create as many turnovers as possible,” Taylor said. “This defense has been around for a while.”
Only it wouldn't be around much longer this night.
Even after the Steelers took that two-touchdown lead, the game shifted quickly, as preseason games so often do, once the starters left.
Still, Brown didn't think the starters — or, as the players call them, the No. 1s — did enough.
“We were trying to work some no-huddle, trying to overtake the defense, and I don't think we got it done,” Brown said. “It's not looking too good right now. It's not where we need it to be.”
So give the Haley offense an “I” for incomplete, with two preseason games remaining.
“We did OK. We weren't perfect,” left guard Willie Colon said. “We scored. We should have scored more. We've got to clean up the little things, and we'll be fine.”
Charlie Batch, who didn't play in Philadelphia, replaced Roethlisberger and was 7 of 10 for 84 yards. Jerrod Johnson played the fourth quarter and was 4 of 5 for 65 yards. Jonathan Dwyer had eight carries for 43 yards, including a 23-yarder.
With NFL teams currently carrying 90 players, double numbers show up for each team; former Steelers running back Mewelde Moore, for example, is one of two No. 26s for the Colts.
The already-polished Luck looked much more comfortable throwing against the Steelers' large cast of backup defenders and finished 16 of 25 for 175 yards and two interceptions, the second of which bounced out of intended receiver T.Y. Hilton's hands directly into Cortez Allen's.
“It's a big goal of ours this year — we have to get more turnovers and get our offense back on the field,” defensive end Brett Keisel said, echoing Taylor's comments. “If we can do that, I think we'll win a lot of games.”
Speaking of numbers, the Steelers were called twice for too many men on the field; once they had 13 in the huddle. Note to Steelers: The rule hasn't changed, it's still 11.
Despite the turnovers, Donald Brown and Luck finished off a pair of 80-yard Colts drives with 1-yard scoring runs, although Luck began to slide on his run and appeared to put a knee down before reaching the end zone late in the second quarter.
“This team came back and put two great touchdown drives together,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.
The pattern was identical to the Eagles game, when the Steelers raced to a 13-0 lead only to lose, 24-23, after Philadelphia piled up points against the second-line team.
Only this time, the Steelers came back to win in the final minute. Backup kicker Daniel Hrapmann hit on field goals of 43, 39 and 25 yards before making a 22-yarder that was deflected but somehow sneaked inside the left upright with 20 seconds left.