Five things we learned from Steelers win over Colts
Five things we learned from Steelers 20, Colts 17:
1. Maybe expectations for the offense were unrealistic.
What do the Steelers have in common with the Bears, Browns, Chargers and Giants?
They are the only five teams in the NFL not to have scored 30 points in a game this season. That company the Steelers are keeping has a combined 7-29 record with the best of the bunch being the 3-6 Bears and Chargers.
Forget averaging 30 points a game, which purportedly was a team goal. The Steelers have gotten to 29 one time and have scored exactly 20 in back-to-back games, mirroring their season average of 20.8 points that ranks 18th.
Maybe this is as good as it gets for the Steelers, who will need to rely on a stifling defense to win low-scoring games. If they can't put up 30 against the Colts, who still have the NFL's worst defense in terms of points allowed, then who will it happen against?
The low output can be glossed over because of the 7-2 record, but perhaps it's time to set the offensive bar to a more attainable goal.
2. When the defense is clicking, it's hard to stop.
Cam Heyward said he begged the defensive coaches to go with a four-man rush after the Colts took a 17-3 lead on a 61-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter.
From that point on, quarterback Jacoby Brissett didn't stand a chance. The Colts had five possessions the rest of the way. They never got beyond their 42 and had two first downs, with one coming via penalty. Brissett completed 3 of 9 passes for 20 yards and an interception while being sacked on successive plays in the fourth quarter.
The pressure kept Brissett from getting comfortable against the Steelers' makeshift secondary which included backups Coty Sensabaugh at cornerback and Robert Golden at free safety.
3. There's no sign that Le'Veon Bell's workload will be reduced in the second half.
After averaging 28.6 touches in the first half of the season, Bell returned from the bye week and was involved in 31 plays. He rushed for 80 yards on 26 carries and caught five passes for 32 yards.
The Steelers subbed in rookie James Conner for one rushing attempt, and he gained 12 yards on a run to the left side midway through the fourth quarter. This put the Steelers in position for a go-ahead field goal, but Chris Boswell's attempt hit the right upright.
Bell averaged just 3.1 yards per carry, which debunked the theory that the bye week would put a little more pep in his step.
With the Steelers having only three days between games, Bell could benefit from a series or two off against Tennessee on Thursday night. Conner is averaging 5.3 yards per carry for the season and has earned the right to get the ball more than once per game.
4. Stephon Tuitt looked like he was trying to make up for lost time.
Starting and finishing a game for the fourth time this year, Tuitt showed why the Steelers gave him such a hefty contract before the season.
Returning from a two-game absence, Tuitt was a disruptive force, having three tackles for loss and four quarterback pressures. Tuitt also got his first sack of the season and had another one wiped out by penalty.
So much was expected of Tuitt entering the season. Finally free of biceps and back injuries, the big defensive end took a step toward fulfilling those lofty expectations.
5. Jordan Berry got the most out of his right leg.
Forget that the punter helped chase down a returner trying to score on a blocked kick for the second time this season. Berry earned his paycheck by fulfilling his regular job description.
Called on to punt six times, Berry had season highs in gross average (49.5) and net average (46.7). In fact, his net average was 9.2 yards longer than his average in the first eight games. Berry also dropped three of his punts inside the 20. Not a bad day of work for a player who toils in relative obscurity.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.