The Pittsburgh Steelers locked up the AFC North title in Week 16, righting a three-game losing skid and anemic offense that could have sunk the Steelers’ hopes for a high seed.
After struggling again in the first half, the Steelers came back for a 28-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field. A loss and a Cleveland Browns victory would have set up a winner-take-all showdown for the north in Week 17.
The Steelers trailed, 21-7, at halftime with a paltry 93 yards of offense. The only score came off a fumble recovery by the defense that set them up three yards from the end zone. It still took four tries to get it across.
The second half was a completely different story as the offense came to life, ignited by a turnover on downs during their first possession of the third quarter. It was a 10-play, 78-yard drive that nearly equaled their first-half output, but the Colts’ TJ Carrie tipped a fourth-down pass at the goal line to deny any points.
Pittsburgh scored touchdowns on the ensuing three possessions and took their first lead in 10 quarters, 28-24. It was the largest second-half comeback of coach Mike Tomlin’s time with the team.
Ugly start: Sputtering Steelers keep struggling
The first half was an ugly showing from Pittsburgh with only 93 yards of offense and a second-quarter touchdown set up by the defense. They went into the locker room trailing 21-7.
The Steelers went a quick three-and-out and fell behind, 7-0, on the ensuing possession. It was the sixth straight game with zero points in the first quarter, made worse by the 2 total yards of offense.
After a combined three punts T.J. Watt sacked Rivers on an 8-yard loss and forced the fumble, which Mike Hilton recovered on the Colts’ 3-yard line. James Conner finally got it in the end zone on a third-and-goal.
It was the only bright spot for Pittsburgh in the first half. Their longest drive was 41 yards on three plays when they got the ball with 14 seconds until the half. They couldn’t get anything going on the ground, accumulating four yards on seven carries.
Philip Rivers was 9-for-12 for 153 yards and a touchdown 42-yard pass to Zach Pascal. The Colts had 77 rushing yards on 20 carries
Turnover on downs ignites Steelers offense
The turnover at the goal line appeared at first to be the final note on the Steelers ugly late-season collapse. They had five tries within five yards of the end zone and still couldn’t do it. Ben Roethlisberger had four passes go incomplete, capped by Carrie’s tip.
It seemed to have the opposite impact. The defense allowed five yards and forced the punt and Roethlisberger came out to hit Diontae Johnson for a 39-yard touchdown pass. It’s one of the longest scores of the Steelers’ recent skid.
Another three-and-out, another Steelers touchdown. They went 74 yards on five plays, eating up 1:51 from the clock as Eric Ebron spun over the line on a a 5-yard touchdown pass.
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