Benny Snell, Clutch Defense Lead Pittsburgh Steelers to Fourth Win

Pittsburgh Steelers Week 12

The 2022 season has not been forgiving for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Through ten games, the team had a poor record of just 3-7 behind woes on both sides of the ball. The defense played very well earlier in the season and the offense is just now starting to come alive. The Steelers really have only had one complete win, which came in Week 10 against the Saints. But things are starting to come together on both sides of the ball, and that was evident in Pittsburgh’s Week 12 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. Behind a solid running game and a stifling defense, the Steelers were able to notch their fourth win of the season in Week 12.

Pittsburgh Steelers Come Back from Deficit, Beat Colts 24-17 in Week 12

The Steelers started off their 11th game of the season in a positive way. The offense mustered the game’s first 13 points and the team even led 16-3 at half. The offense was not at its best but still got points on the board early, partially because of the defense’s shutdown of the Colts’ offense. At halftime, the Steelers led 16-3 and looked primed to run away with the game. But Indy clawed their way back, and at one point, led 17-16. However, the Steelers used their above-proficient running game to get back on the board, and claimed the game by a final of 24-17.

Game Summary

Steelers Jump Out to 13-Point Lead

The Steelers moved the ball well on the opening drive of the game, notching a field goal to start. Najee Harris had two good runs and Kenny Pickett found Diontae Johnson for two 11-yard gains. The drive ended in a 45-yard field goal from kicker Matthew Wright, who is filling in for Chris Boswell. On the second offensive play of the game, Matt Ryan threw a pick to James Pierre, and the Steelers took over at the Indy 38. But, the Steelers couldn’t take advantage of the field position and had to punt. The Colts went nowhere, and punted it right back. From there, the Steelers built an eight-play, 27-yard drive to get into field goal range again. Wright knocked another one through, this one from 52 yards out, to extend the lead to 6-0.

The Colts, on their third drive, still could not piece anything together, and were forced to punt after gaining just six yards. From there, Pittsburgh constructed a 79-yard touchdown drive. The drive opened with a 39-yard bomb from Pickett to Pickens, for the Steelers’ longest gain of the game. On a first-and-goal from the six, Najee Harris punched in his fourth touchdown of the year to make the lead 13-0. The Colts rode Jonathan Taylor down the field and got their first points of the day on a 51-yard field goal from Chase McLaughlin. To close out the half, the Steelers moved well down the field but stalled at the Colts’ 7, and Wright knocked through his third field goal of the game. The Colts set up a 59-yard field goal attempt at the end of the half, but it was blocked by defensive tackle Isaiahh Loudermilk.

Colts Have Big Third Quarter, Headlined by Special Teams

The Steelers were looking great heading into the second half, up by a score of 16-3. But the Colts got a big boost when their return man, Dallis Rodgers, ran back the opening kick for 89 yards. Starting at the Steelers’ 19, it took one pass and three Jonathan Taylor runs to punch it into the end zone. The third quarter saw the Steelers not pick up a first down on two three-and-outs, but the Colts scored soon after. Indy drove down the field, but a mismanaged snap exchange at the one led to a fumble. Chris Wormley jumped in and recovered the fumble. On the next Colts drive, Matt Ryan had four completions that led to Michael Pittman’s go-ahead touchdown.

Steelers Use TD, 2 Pt. To Go Ahead Late

The Steelers got the ball in the dwindling seconds of the third quarter and built one of their better drives of the day. In eleven plays, scored a touchdown and a two point conversion to put Pittsburgh up 24-17. Benny Snell, on third down, punched in it from two yards out. The next play, Pickett found Pickens in the right back corner for the two point conversion. Two defensive stands, including breaking up a game-sealing fourth down, closed out the game for the Steelers. This puts them at 4-7 now with a semi-favorable schedule coming up.

Offense Looks Good, Missed Opportunities Aside

Kenny Pickett Sharp But Still Needs to Improve

Pickett had a nice first half, tallying over 100 passing yards and leading the offense to 16 points. He has looked consistently better each and every game and has started making some of those harder throws. Pickett only finished the game with 174 yards, completing 20 of 28 passes. He also added 32 yards on the ground and led the offense to 24 total points. Pickett missed several throws, either too high or bounced, but was also impacted by a few drops. Realistically, Pickett hit his receivers in the hands 25 or 26 times but only ended with 20 completions, for a grand percentage of 71.4%.

Running Game Solid Even After Harris’ Early Exit

With Jaylen Warren out, the Steelers activated and used Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland to complement Najee Harris. Harris ran ten times for 35 yards and a touchdown but was shaken up after being tackled on his tenth carry. He never returned to the game and then Snell and McFarland dually took over the duties. Benny Snell played fantastically, rushing 12 times for 62 yards and the go-ahead touchdown; Snell also added a catch for six yards. He did really well finding holes and looked more explosive than Najee Harris has been. McFarland also had six carries for 30 yards, and also had two catches for 11 yards. His longest run of the game came on a 14-yard run to move the chains. Overall, the Steelers finished with 172 rushing yards on the night, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

Receivers, Pickett Miss Some Connections But Getting Better

The passing game was pretty good, although the core had their moments. The team still needs to do a better job of getting all three featured receivers incorporated. George Pickens didn’t technically “drop” any passes, but he had three passes hit him in the hands and couldn’t bring them in. He, however, was Pittsburgh’s leading receiver in Week 12 with 57 yards on three catches and the two point catch. Diontae Johnson should’ve had a touchdown but didn’t haul it in. Johnson led the team in targets with eight and also had five catches for 49 yards. He still makes the consistent mistake of running sideways/backwards to try to get extra yards. While that sometimes works and he avoids taking bigger hits, he loses yardage a considerable amount too. Pat Freiermuth also tallied three catches for 39 yards, including a 12-yarder to put the Steelers in the red zone.

Defense Limits Taylor but Gets Lucky

Last year’s All Pro Running Back was Jonathan Taylor, and the Steelers certainly had their hands full with him. The Colts gave him 24 touches (20 carries, three catches, one incompletion) and he turned it into 98 total yards, for an average of just over four yards per play. Taylor did score one of the team’s two touchdowns but Pittsburgh held him in check most of the game, despite his heavy workload. Matt Ryan also had just 199 passing yards on 34 attempts and was sacked three times in the game. He also was charged with one interception and two fumbles (one lost).

Pittsburgh put pressure on Ryan all night and it worked out well for them. Arthur Maulet, Alex Highsmith, and Terrell Edmunds each notched a sack and forced a total loss of 19 yards. The secondary played pretty well but struggled to contain two receivers: Michael Pittman and Jelani Woods. Pittman had seven catches on 11 targets, and turned it into 61 yards and a touchdown. Woods, a rookie tight end, had a career game; he finished with eight catches for 98 yards. The secondary and linebackers seemed a bit slow at points, but their coverage was very good for most of the game. Overall, the defense played pretty well and will have to continue and up that play to remain successful.

Some Notes for Special Teams

Pressley Harvin had some nice punts and Matthew Wright made all of his kicks, but the other aspects of special teams looked concerning for Pittsburgh. Indy tallied 225 kick return yards on five attempts, for an average of about 46 yards per run back. This gave them a field position of about their 40 on every drive. One return broke loose for 89 yards and made the game a lot closer than it really was. They should probably spend some time finding ways to eliminate those big run backs before it becomes a big issue.

Outlining the Inevitable Truth

At 4-7, the Steelers are likely out of the playoff race. They are not completely eliminated yet, nor are they guaranteed Mike Tomlin’s first losing season. Unless the Steelers go on a run (which is very possible), winning six straight games, the season is effectively over. If things start to cash in, they could take advantage of their semi-easy schedule. They will face the Falcons, Panthers, and Raiders, who all are very beatable. Finally, the Steelers will have to play three more division games, two against the Ravens and one against the Browns. Although the idea of playoffs seems irrational now, it could very well happen as long as they keep playing their game. They faced rough odds last year but still made it in with a 9-7-1 record. Although their current chances sit at just 1.5%, this team has the potential to start making a name for themselves.