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Steelers notebook: Tough game for returner Jones

| Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015, 10:42 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Steelers returner Jacoby Jones fumbles on the opening kickoff against the Colts on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015, at Heinz Field.

It's been a rough start for return specialist Jacoby Jones since he replaced Dri Archer, who was released Nov. 5. Jones fumbled twice in the first half in Sunday night's game against the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field.

Jones, who tormented the Steelers while with Baltimore, fumbled away the opening kickoff. However, outside linebacker Jarvis Jones cleaned up the mistake by intercepting Matt Hasselbeck in the end zone. But the Steelers turned the ball over for the second time in the first 2 minutes, 42 seconds as running back DeAngelo Williams was stripped of the ball at the Steelers 25.

Jones muffed a punt late in the second quarter, but wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey recovered the ball at the Steelers 40. The Steelers marched 60 yards in eight plays to take a 21-10 halftime lead.

The Steelers' comedy of errors in the opening minutes enabled the Colts to take a 3-0 lead with 10:23 left in the first quarter. Adam Vinatieri, who had missed only once in 18 attempts against the Steelers in 20-year career, split the uprights from 35 yards.

James gets off to fast start

Rookie tight end Jesse James, a South Allegheny and Penn State graduate, started for the second time this season. James made his first career start in a 30-9 win over AFC North rival Cleveland three weeks ago.

James, who entered the game with four receptions and a touchdown, had three catches in the first quarter.

Boykin comes up big

Cornerback Brandon Boykin left Philadelphia partly because he didn't want to play slot corner.

But Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said last week he was best suited for the position. Boykin, who played only 22 snaps prior to Sunday's game, got his first interception as a Steeler late in the first quarter on a ball that was tipped by cornerback William Gay.

The interception set up a 51-yard field goal by Chris Boswell that gave the Steelers a 6-3 lead with 3:15 left in the first quarter.

A short field

The Colts didn't have much turf to cover on nearly half of its possessions in the first half.

Three times, they started in Steelers' territory — at the 11-yard line (fumble), the 25 (fumble) and the 47 (punt) — and netted 10 points, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to running back Frank Gore that put Indianapolis ahead 10-6 midway through the second quarter.

Miller among inactives

The Steelers were without tight end Heath Miller, who was among the seven inactive players. Miller was listed as questionable with a rib injury Friday. Linebacker Sean Spence was ruled out with a hamstring, leaving Vince Williams as the backup at inside linebacker for Ryan Shazier, who underwent concussion protocol along with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during the week but did start.

Quarterback Mike Vick, wide receiver Sammie Coates, running back Jordan Todman, offensive tackle Byron Stingily and defensive end L.T. Walton didn't dress. The Colts were without three starters, including quarterback Andrew Luck and offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo.

Defense torments Hasselbeck

Hasselbeck had played relatively mistake-free football in leading the Colts to three straight wins. He had thrown only two interceptions in previous four starts, but he was intercepted twice in the first quarter, mostly because he faced constant pressure from blitzing linebackers.

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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