Kevin Gorman’s Take 5: Chris Boswell becomes old reliable as Steelers outlast Colts
It came down to a kick, and Chris Boswell became old reliable for the Pittsburgh Steelers while Adam Vinatieri just looked old.
Boswell converted four field goals, including a 26-yarder for his first winner this season to give the Steelers a 26-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Heinz Field.
But it came down to the 46-year-old Vinatieri, a 24-year NFL veteran who kicked his 29th winner on a 51-yarder for a 15-13 victory over Denver last week.
The Steelers were on the ropes after losing a pair of coach’s challenges in the final 2 minutes, 35 seconds, and the Colts positioned Vinatieri for a 43-yarder with 1:14 remaining.
And Vinatieri missed wide left, allowing the Steelers to escape a game they nearly gave away with a victory.
1. Kick for kick: When it comes to dropping passes, Steelers receivers haven’t helped Mason Rudolph’s cause.
They keep landing in the hands of the defense.
Rudolph’s pass bounced off JuJu Smith-Schuster’s hands and into those of cornerback Kenny Moore, who returned the interception 35 yards to the Steelers’ 35. Of Rudolph’s four picks, three have come off drops by his receivers.
Despite getting a first-and-goal at the 7, the Steelers stopped the Colts and held them to a Vinatieri 25-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
With James Conner out with a shoulder injury, Trey Edmunds played a more prominent role in the backfield. On his first carry, Edmunds broke off a 45-yard run to the Indianapolis 30. The Steelers twice converted on third down but on second-and-goal at the 1, Edmunds was dropped for a 2-yard loss and the Steelers settled for a 21-yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3 with 58 seconds left in the first quarter.
But the short-yardage concerns remained.
2. Beware the backup: Jacoby Brissett was thrust into the starting role as Colts quarterback when Andrew Luck retired in the preseason.
As backups go, Brissett looked more like a starter this season. And he was 4 of 5 for 59 yards, including a 27-yard pass to Parris Campbell, before suffering a knee injury on first-and-goal at the 12.
That’s when the Colts turned to Brian Hoyer, an 11-year veteran on his seventh team. Hoyer answered with an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jack Doyle for a 10-3 lead at 11:57 of the second quarter.
Hoyer’s next red-zone throw wouldn’t fare so well.
3. Pick for the books: The Steelers were stopped in another short-yardage situation on a fourth-and-2 at the Indianapolis 35 when they attempted a short flip pass to Smith-Schuster, who was stuffed for no gain.
The Colts promptly popped off a 22-yard gain on a reverse by Campbell, then converted a third-and-6 with a 7-yard pass to tight end Eric Ebron.
But on first-and-10 at the 20, Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick picked off a Hoyer pass at the 4 and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown to tie it at 10-10.
It was the second-longest interception return in regular-season history for the Steelers. Only Martin Kottler’s 99-yarder against the Chicago Cardinals in 1933 was longer, although we all know that it’s a deceiving record.
James Harrison has the longest interception return in Steelers history, with his 100-yard touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals on the final play of the first half in Super Bowl XLIII.
And we know how that game ended.
4. Momentum killer: The Colts combined a 21-yard pass to Nyheim Hines with a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty by T.J. Watt to get into Steelers territory.
Then Hoyer found tight end Zach Pascal for a 14-yard touchdown, only to have Cameron Heyward block Vinatieri’s extra-point kick. The Colts had a 16-10 lead with 42 seconds left in the first half.
Just when it looked like the Steelers were going to run out the clock in the first half with a 5-yard pass to Vance McDonald, Colts linebacker Darius Leonard was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty.
That gave the Steelers one untimed play from the Indianapolis 33, allowing for a Boswell 51-yard field goal to cut the Colts’ lead to 16-13 at halftime.
And this was a game where every point counted.
5. Back and forth: The Steelers turned a Bud Dupree forced fumble and recovery into an 11-play, 54-play scoring drive capped by a Rudolph’s touchdown pass to McDonald.
Steelers 20, Colts 16.
But the Colts pinned the Steelers at their own 1 with a punt. Rudolph was sacked in the end zone by Justin Houston and the Colts got a safety when Rudolph’s fumble was recovered by left tackle Alejandro Villanueva.
Steelers 20, Colts 18.
But Ola Adeniyi forced a fumble on Jordan Berry’s kick and Johnny Holton recovered at the Indianapolis 17 to set up Boswell for a 33-yard field goal.
Steelers 23, Colts 18.
But Jaylen Samuels fumbled and the Colts responded with a 30-yard scoring drive capped by Hoyer’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Chester Rogers only to see their two-point conversion pass fail.
Colts 24, Steelers 23.
But Rudolph connected with James Washington for a 40-yard pass, and cornerback Marvell Tell was called for pass interference and the Steelers suddenly had a first-and-goal at the 7. And, in three plays, they lost a yard and had to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Boswell with 6:36 left.
Steelers 26, Colts 24.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .