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Steelers survive Colts on last-second field goal

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The Steelers survived three turnovers, multiple injuries on the offensive line and an overwhelmingly dominant performance by Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney to beat Indianapolis 23-20 on a last-second field foal by Shaun Suisham.

Shaun Suisham’s three field goals, the last coming with four seconds left on the clock, proved to be the difference in the Steelers Sunday night 23-20 win over the reeling Indianapolis Colts. Despite a dominant defensive performance by Colts’ linemen Dwight Freeney and Rashard Mathis, the Steelers survived to get their second win of the season. The game’s score went back and forth three times in the final quarter during an unexpectedly tight match-up.

A huge factor in the first half for the Steelers, Mike Wallace decimated the Colts secondary on the Steelers’ first and third drives of the game. On the first play of the game, Ben Roethlisberger connected with Wallace for a 19-yard pass play. The next big gain came from another connection between Roethlisberger and Wallace, a 29-yard gain to the Indianapolis 32-yard line. Suisham connected with a 48-yard field goal to put the Steelers up 3-0 on the opening drive of the game.

Two defensive stops by the Steelers later, the offense returned to the air for their next score. After a short run by Rashard Mendenhall, Roethlisberger connected with Wallace on an 81-yard pass play to put the Steelers up 10-0 before the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter did not go as well for the Steelers. Indianapolis’ defense stepped up and forced three Steelers turnovers in 11 minutes, each turnover leading to points for the Colts.

Colts’ veteran defensive lineman Rashard Mathis made quick work of Steelers rookie tackle Marcus Gilbert and forced a fumble at midfield from Roethlisberger.  Indianapolis veteran quarterback Kerry Collins, and running back Joseph Addai, marched the Colts down the field and set up Adam Vinatieri for a 21-yard field goal to make the score 10-3.

On the Steelers’ next drive, Roethlisberger connected twice with Antonio Brown for first downs before being met again by a Colts’ veteran defensive lineman. Dwight Freeney shot past left tackle Jonathan Scott to force another fumble, coming behind Roethlisberger and knocking the ball loose before the Steelers' quarterback could get a pass off. Colts’ lineman Jamaal Anderson scooped up the fumble and ran 47 yards for a defensive touchdown to tie the game at 10-10.

On the very first play of the Steelers’ next drive, Roethlisberger committed another turnover, this time overthrowing Emmanuel Sanders at the 50-yard line. Colts rookie safety Joe Lefeged intercepted the pass and Sanders jogged past him, neglecting to touch him for the tackle. Sanders' miscue, combined with a low-block penalty by the receiver Antonio Brown, pushed the ball to the Steelers’ 25-yard line. The Steelers’ defense held up, only allowing another field goal by Vinatieri, this time a 25-yarder to give the Colts their first lead of the game, 13-10.

Both offenses went scoreless in the third quarter. The Steelers had a chance to add more points after a long, 7-minute drive in the quarter. However, rookie tight end Weslye Saunders bobbled a sure first-down pass from Roethlisberger and the ensuing 36-yard field goal attempt by Suisham sailed a bit too far left and dinged off the left upright.

After forcing another punt, the Steelers went on another long drive split between the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth. To start the drive, Roethlisberger connected with tight-end Heath Miller for 30 yards. Later in the drive, a defensive pass interference penalty gave the Steelers a fresh set of downs and they were able to set up Suisham for another field goal, this time a 44-yard attempt booted through the uprights to tie the game at 13-13.

The Colts were forced to put in their back-up quarterback, Curtis Painter, to start their fourth quarter offense. Kerry Collins was injured in the third quarter after a hard hit by James Farrior and did not return in the fourth quarter for the Colts. The Colts’ offensive struggles this season continued with Painter at the helm, suffering a four-and-out and another short drive on Painter’s first two offensive series this season.

With a little over five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, James Harrison notched the Steelers only sack of the game and forced a fumbled, recovered by Troy Polamalu. Polamalu picked up the ball at the Colts 16-yard line and sprinted to the end-zone for a touchdown, putting the Steelers up 20-13 after Suisham’s extra point. It was the first turnover forced by the Steelers this season.

The Colts stuck with it and made it a game after the Steelers’ defensive score. Painter and Addai led the Colts down the field, Addai finding running room over the left side of the Steelers defensive line, picking up large chunks of yards while running right at defensive end Aaron Smith. Painter, meanwhile, found soft spots underneath and took advantage, capping off an 80-yard drive with a 6-yard run by Addai for the touchdown.

With the score tied 20-20 with two minutes left in the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger marched the Steelers 60 yards down the field to set up Suisham for the game-winning, 38-yard field goal.

Line Decimated by Injuries
The Steelers already-thin offensive line suffered three major injuries during the course of the game. Starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who took over the position when starter Willie Colon went down in the opener, injured his right shoulder and was replaced by Trai Essex. Starting right guard Doug Legursky also injured his shoulder and did not return. Ramon Foster took his spot. Starting left tackle Jonathan Scott, who was bullied all night by Freeney, left the field on a cart in the fourth quarter. Gilbert was forced to return despite his shoulder injury and finished the game on the left side,

Through the Air
Big Ben completed 25 of his 37 passes for 364 yards, including one touchdown and one interception. Mike Wallace had a big game for the Steelers, notching five catches for 144 yards and one touchdown. Antonio Brown and Heath Miller both chipped in with four and five catches, respectively.

On the Ground
Rashard Mendenhall struggled against the Colts defense, picking up only 37 yards on 18 carries and was held without a touchdown. Melwelde Moore, in the backfield for protection purposes, picked up two huge first downs on the Steelers final drive.

The Steelers defense held the Colts to 241 total yards, giving the tandem of Collins and Painter trouble throwing the football. Pittsburgh only had one sack, but it proved to be key factor, leading to a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Special Teams
Shaun Suisham stole the spotlight for the Steelers’ special teams. Suisham connected on three of four field goal attempts, including the game winner from 38 yards with four seconds remaining. His miss from 36-yards, while appearing costly at the time, was rendered meaningless. Punt returner Antonio Brown had two fantastic returns of 26 and 42 yards in the second half.

Game Ball
Overall, Dwight Freeney led the charge for the surprisingly gritty Colts defense. Freeney accumulated four tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble that led to a Colts defensive touchdown. For the Steelers, Mike Wallace had a big day, catching five passes for 144 yards and a touchdown, including an 81-yard reception in the first half.

Next up
The Steelers travel to Houston to take on the 3-0 Texans. The game is scheduled to start at 1:00pm and will be broadcast on CBS.

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