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Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts

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INDIANAPOLIS – Behind 30 unanswered points on Saturday, the Colts earned an absolutely massive mid-December win in Week 15.

The Colts overcame a poor start on Saturday, with quite the dominating statement the rest of the way in beating the Steelers (7-7) 27-13.

What did we learn from the Colts moving to 8-6 on the year?


1. Offensive Line Response

New Orleans Saints v Indianapolis Colts Source:Getty

Offensive Line Response: Anytime a team goes from having 33 straight scored against them (as the Colts did to end last week in Cincinnati and start Saturday in Pittsburgh, to then scoring 30 unanswered, plenty of positive reasons are there for that. But I’m going to focus here on the response by the Colts offensive line on Saturday. That response was from last week, and even the start Saturday after a sack allowed on each of the first three drives. You could make the case that the trench effort against the Bengals was one of the poorest of the season for Indy. And, after some T.J. Watt issues early on, the Colts offensive line settled in Saturday to control the line of scrimmage the rest of the way. It was to the tune of both Trey Sermon (17 carries for 88 yards) and Tyler Goodson (11 carries for 69 yards) each averaging more than 5 yards per carry. Routine short-yardage attempts turned into the Colts OL moving the line of scrimmage several yards in the positive direction. Recent run game struggles were nowhere to be found on Saturday. This is what the Colts want to be about, and they were not that last week in Cincinnati. On a day when the Steelers had every right to load the box (especially after Michael Pittman Jr. exited in the first half), the Colts still handled the line of scrimmage much better than they have in recent weeks. The cherry on top was a 15-play drive in the third/fourth quarter that ate up nearly 9 minutes of game time. Going back to Watt, he was a game-wrecker early on Saturday, but the Colts regrouped to keep him very quiet in the final three quarters. This overall trench performance was needed on a day when the Colts dealt with critical skill position injuries and had to overcome a couple of more special teams gaffs (are we worried about Matt Gay now having some kicker yips?).

2. Gardner Minshew’s Best Game Of Season

Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts Source:Getty

Gardner Minshew’s Best Game Of Season: Who saw that Gardner Minshew performance coming? That was arguably Minshew’s best starting work of the season. He was accurate, strayed away from turnover-worthy plays and even extended some plays early, when the Colts really needed life. Per usual, Shane Steichen tried to get Minshew going with some quick-rhythm action. As Minshew lost his top running back and top wide receiver, he stayed composed, and continued to deliver on-target balls, no matter if he had a couple of touchdowns dropped. He orchestrated a big end of half TD drive, to give Indy a lead at intermission. Minshew finished the evening going 18-of-28 for 215 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. His 123.4 passer rating was a season-high. On Saturday, the Colts did not have to overcome the play of their quarterback at all. He was a huge reason why they won this game. At other times this season, the Colts have won in spite of Minshew. But on Saturday, his play helped overshadow Gay’s rough kicking day, a blocked punt, and an early two-score deficit. This was Minshew looking more like the ‘back of his baseball card,’ something we hadn’t seen in last month-plus. If the Colts get this Minshew in this closing stretch they are going to be a playoff team.

3. Unsung Heroes, Key Injuries To Watch

Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts Source:Getty

Unsung Heroes, Key Injuries To Watch: Both the Colts and Steelers had to rely on their depth Saturday, especially in-game. And the Colts got some much-needed efforts from the likes of Gardner Minshew, Trey Sermon, Tyler Goodson and D.J. Montgomery. You had Minshew extending a third-down early in the game, to spark a Colts team down 13-0 at the time. Montgomery overcame a brutal TD drop on a 4th-and-Goal in the second quarter, to deliver two big runs after catch later in the quarter for a key touchdown just before intermission. And both Sermon and Goodson were consistent and reliable behind a bulldozing Indy offensive line. Yes, the Steelers were decimated at inside linebacker and safety, but in a battle of backups, if you will, it was Shane Steichen guiding the Colts depth to much more success. In one way, getting a win while missing your starting QB, starting RB (and then the backup RB exited in the first half) and your top wideout, is obviously darn impressive. Of course, the reality off of that can’t be ignored. How severe is the arm injury for Zack Moss and the concussion for Michael Pittman Jr? Missing Moss for an extended period of time might be lessened if Jonathan Taylor (right thumb) can return next Sunday in Atlanta. There’s hope that is possible. Losing Pittman Jr. though would be more severe, given how much that would test a very unproven group of outside wideouts, and acknowledging the impressive consistent production MPJ has achieved this season. Part of the major bummers of those two injuries is they both incurred on illegal plays by Steelers defenders (a horse collar tackle against Moss and an unnecessary roughness hit against Pittman Jr.). While Saturday was a great win, these losses can’t be ignored as the Colts move into the final three weeks of the season. Still though, what an effort from Steichen and his group when they score 30 points, sans so many key offensive guys.

4. E.J. Speed Splashing

Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts Source:Getty

E.J. Speed Splashing: In missing E.J. Speed last week, you could make the case that was the biggest Colts injury loss (from Braden Smith, Jonathan Taylor and JuJu Brents). On Saturday, Speed made his presence felt on the first play of the game with a tackle for loss, and then did it again on Pittsburgh’s first play of the second half (with Julian Blackmon making a great recovery just before going out of bounds. These are the types of plays Speed has shown he’s capable of making. It’s a big reason why he deserved more playing time, as the Colts stuck with Shaquille Leonard, until eventually cutting No. 53. On a day when the Colts had some rookie cornerback moments, a playmaking day from the unit in front of them was welcomed. Speed’s return, and big third-quarter fumble set the tone for a dominant 2nd half.

5. Colts Greatly Strengthen Playoff Chances

Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts Source:Getty

Colts Greatly Strengthen Playoff Chances: As we talked about all week long, this result carries massive playoff implications. Pending the rest of Week 15, Saturday’s win improves the Colts playoff chances to north of 60 percent. It also gives them an important tiebreaker over the Steelers, something they missed out on against fellow AFC North Wild Card teams in the Browns and Bengals. It’s also another AFC win, which further pads an important conference record tiebreaker, which could come in handy in a few weeks. Again, the Colts needed this one for many, many reasons. As impactful as last week’s loss to the Bengals was, getting this one was arguably more important. Heading into the final 3 weeks of the season, the Colts continue to be in control of their playoff position. A 2-1 record might be enough to get in. And, if you want to get greedy a bit, this win by the Colts (8-6) puts some pressure on the Jaguars (8-5) taking on the Ravens on Sunday night.


Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts Source:Getty


Injury Report: The following Colts were inactive on Saturday: RB-Jonathan Taylor (right thumb), RT-Braden Smith (knee), LB-Segun Olubi (groin),DT-Adetomia Adebawore, CB-Tony Brown, WR-Isaiah McKenzie, DE-Isaiah Land. The following players got injured and did not return: WR-Michael Pittman Jr. (concussion), RB-Zack Moss (Arm)

Key Stat: Trey Sermon and Tyler Goodson combined for 28 carries and 157 rushing yards on Saturday.

-What’s Next: The Colts (8-6) will hit the road next Sunday for their final away game of the regular season. It’ll be the Atlanta Falcons (6-7) on Christmas Eve, in a 1:00 PM kickoff in Week 16.

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