Tim Benz: Steelers’ feats of strength from crucial win over Colts
The Indianapolis Colts (5-3) lost Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton and starting cornerback Pierre Desir midweek. Then they lost starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett and starting center Ryan Kelly mid-game.
But do you think the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4) are going to feel sorry for anyone?
Their star running back and wide receiver defected to other teams this offseason. Their quarterback is on injured reserve. So is one of their best defensive players. Their Pro Bowl running back is out with a shoulder injury and his rookie backup is hurt, too.
Not to mention that a starting guard, Ramon Foster, missed Sunday’s game against the Colts with a concussion.
Aside from that, they are totally healthy.
None of that prevented the Steelers from getting a 26-24 win at Heinz Field, though.
So let’s outline our weekly “Feats of Strength” from those who remained as the Steelers outlasted Indianapolis for a crucial AFC victory.
The pass rush
It was outstanding. Especially considering the level of competition. The Colts offensive line is regarded as one of the better blocking units in the league. And the Steelers defensive front carved it up.
The Steelers had five sacks and numerous other hurries. Indy only yielded 11 sacks in their first seven games.
Indianapolis had 139 yards rushing. But that was somewhat bloated by 10 yards in quarterback scrambles and a 27-yard reverse.
Bud Dupree had two sacks, including this one that turned into a fumble recovery.
Nice little delay by Bud Dupree here for the strip sack pic.twitter.com/5caX68pBN2
— Gordon McGuinness (@PFF_Gordon) November 3, 2019
“We knew they had great players up front,” Dupree said. “They’ve got ‘ones’ up front. But we’ve got ‘ones’ up front, too.”
Dupree also stuffed running back Marlon Mack on a third-and-1 rush that set up Adam Vinatieri’s field goal miss to lock up the game.
The Colts gave away the ball just seven times in their first seven games. The Steelers took it away three times on Sunday.
Indianapolis’ injuries on offense may have had something to do with it. But credit the Steelers for forcing the opportunities that existed.
Especially Minkah Fitzpatrick on this 96-yard interception return for a score off backup quarterback Brian Hoyer.
He also had 2 picks last week.pic.twitter.com/taT7BHFl5P
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 3, 2019
Take another look at that one. It’s going for a touchdown if Fitzpatrick isn’t there. That’s a 14-point swing on one play.
That’s 22 turnovers for Keith Butler’s defense. The second-best total in the NFL.
Sunday was a rare afternoon when the Steelers special teams out-performed the opponent.
Cam Heyward blocked an extra point. Chris Boswell made all four of his field goal attempts and both of his extra points. And most importantly, Ola Adeniyi and Trey Edmunds combined to force a fumble on a free kick after a Colts safety.
“I knew my role coming into this season is on special teams and I just wanted to do that to the best of my ability,” Adeniyi said. “After that play, I felt like that helped turn the game around.”
Meanwhile, Vinatieri had that extra-point kick blocked. Then he missed the potential game-winning field goal from 43 yards out with 1:14 left.
The Colts also fumbled that free kick and absorbed a penalty for unnecessary roughness on a Ryan Switzer punt return.
Essentially a fourth option at running back, Trey Edmunds stood out.
With James Conner and Benny Snell injured, he led the team with 73 yards rushing. That included a 45-yard jaunt.
And, yes, it was Trey Edmunds. Not his brother Terrell as this NFL tweet suggested.
— Dave Thomas (@davepit6sb) November 3, 2019
The Steelers were desperate at running back. But not so desperate as to put their starting safety on the other side of the ball.
“I know how hard he prepares week to week,” quarterback Mason Rudolph said of Edmunds. “Trey has been the same guy since he got here. He treats his preparation the same whether he is on the practice squad or whether he is going to be the No. 2 guy. I have a lot of confidence in him.
Meanwhile, starting running back Jaylen Samuels was tops on the team in receiving with 13 catches and 73 yards.
Limiting the tight ends
Credit the Steelers’ defense for largely taking away the tight ends of Indianapolis. Coach Frank Reich’s offense uses them a lot.
It was a point of emphasis all week for Butler and head coach Mike Tomlin.
Granted, Jack Doyle caught a touchdown. But he, Eric Ebron, and Mo Alie-Cox only combined for six total catches, 49 yards, and that one score.
With Hilton out, I expected the tight ends of the Colts to be much more heavily targeted. Yet the Steelers limited those options.