Steelers still in flux after holding off Colts
All that really counts in the NFL are wins and losses, no matter how they come, so the Steelers will take their 23-20 win in Indianapolis and move on. But there's no way Pittsburgh can feel good about how it played Sunday night.
Playing against an 0-2 Colts team that was already without Peyton Manning and then lost Kerry Collins in the second half, the Steelers still needed a defensive touchdown and a late drive to eke one out.
You can more or less forget about Pittsburgh's Week 2 throttling of a crummy Seattle team -- this Steelers team, despite being 2-1 and tied for first place in the AFC North, needs to get itself figured out. Fast.
Just as in a 35-7 loss to Baltimore in Week 1, the Steelers' offensive line was manhandled Sunday.
Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis will do that to a lot of Colts opponents, but Pittsburgh's problems reached comical proportions. Ben Roethlisberger was pressured on what felt like every single play, leading to three sacks, two fumbles and one interception. Those three Big Ben turnovers led to 13 of Indianapolis' 20 points, with a touchdown coming when Freeney lit Roethlisberger up and knocked the ball loose, allowing Jamaal Anderson to scoop it and score from 49 yards out.
And making matters worse was that Pittsburgh had no choice but to throw the ball, because its run game had no chance. Rashard Mendenhall averaged 2.1 yards on 18 carries and was replaced late by Mewelde Moore.
Pittsburgh guard Doug Legursky exited Sunday's game with a shoulder injury, as did tackle Marcus Gilbert. Then, left tackle Jonathan Scott, who was destroyed by Freeney all night, turned his ankle on the Steelers' last drive.
Somehow, Roethlisberger got the Steelers into field goal range for Shaun Suisham to win it in the closing seconds.
Give a lot of credit to the Colts. They looked like they were playing for the 2012 draft in Weeks 1 and 2, laying a total egg in Houston in Week 1, then dropping their home opener to Cleveland. They were double-digit underdogs Sunday against the defending AFC champions and turned in a dazzling effort.
It wasn't enough, mainly because Indianapolis' offense is still lost without Manning -- Painter did lead an 80-yard, game-tying drive in the fourth quarter that could give the Colts some hope, finally, for his future.
The Steelers still won, as they were supposed to do. It was ugly enough that it will feel like a loss.
Mike Tomlin's an absolute perfectionist. He opened his press conference after his team's Week 2 shutout win of Seattle by saying, "I just told my team in there that we are the same team that got blasted in Baltimore last week."
No one will argue with him if he makes a similar comment following Sunday's game. Only Pittsburgh's 2-1 record is keeping this team afloat at the moment. Can the Steelers still pull it together? You'd sure think so, with Roethlisberger and all those weapons on offense, and a defense that still features some of the league's most feared players. They are light years away from the team that nearly won last season's Super Bowl, though, even after avoiding -- just barely -- a complete collapse in Indianapolis.