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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew (10) runs past the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) during the second quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, in Indianapolis. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images/TNS)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew (10) runs past the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) during the second quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, in Indianapolis. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images/TNS)

Indianapolis Colts score 30 unanswered points to beat Pittsburgh Steelers

Colts head coach Shane Steichen showed what he means to the franchise in the victory.

For the second time in as many weeks, the Indianapolis Colts faced a two-possession deficit to an AFC North opponent, but this time they improved upon the previous week's outcome. The Colts beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-13 on Saturday to improve to 8-6 on the season. In Week 14 in Cincinnati, the Bengals jumped out to a 14-0 lead before the Colts regained their footing and tied the game at 14-14, before ultimately losing 34-14.

On Saturday, inside Lucas Oil Stadium, the team's playoff hopes relied on achieving a different result. 

The Steelers scored two early touchdowns on a one-yard sneak from quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and a four-yard reception from Trubisky to wide receiver Diontae Johnson. The Colts faced a 13-0 deficit just one minute into the second quarter.

Similar to the Colts' performance last Sunday, they quickly came back with Zack Moss and D.J. Montgomery both scoring on touchdown receptions from quarterback Gardner Minshew. Indianapolis finished the game on a 30-point scoring run to win 30-13. According to The New York Times, the Colts now have a 59% chance of making the playoffs, prior to Sunday's slate of games in Week 15.

“The big thing was cleaning up the penalties, right, I think we had two penalties for 10 yards,” Colts head coach Shane Steichen said postgame. “Then getting the takeaways, and we got three and we didn't turn the ball over. When that happens you usually win football games.”

The Colts weren't able to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s first turnover, when safety Nick Cross high-pointed Trubisky’s pass intended for wide receiver George Pickens. Indianapolis' following possession produced 70 yards of offense on 13 plays, but Montgomery dropped an open pass in the back of the end zone on fourth down.

The Colts signed Montgomery, a third-year receiver out of Austin Peay University, to the active roster this week. His role increased after wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. exited the game with a concussion that he suffered on a hit from Steelers safety Damontae Kazee, which resulted in Kazee's ejection. 

Pittman Jr. still tallied four receptions for 78 yards before his departure. His 78 yards were enough to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the season, which is the earliest in a season he has accomplished the feat in his career.

Despite the earlier drop in the end zone, Montgomery quickly reinforced his standing with the front office as he caught two passes for 48 yards and a touchdown on the team’s next possession.

“He’s been working his tail off on the scout team all year and he just made plays, and plays, and plays," Steichen said.

It was clear to Steichen that the Colts needed to elevate Montgomery to the active roster. Steichen gave credit to wide receivers coach Reggie Wayne for Montgomery's development this season.

The Colts' defense struggled last week against Cincinnati, allowing 34 points and 385 yards, but it was able to get back on track Saturday. Indianapolis only allowed 216 yards and it sacked Trubisky four times. The four sacks added to the team's season total of 46, which tied the Colts' franchise record that they set in 1989 and tied in 2005. Defensive ends Dayo Odeyingbo and Samson Ebukam each recorded one and a half sacks.

Linebacker E.J. Speed was crucial in the victory, accumulating 10 tackles and forcing a pivotal fumble from Steelers running back Najee Harris. It set the Colts up for tight end Mo Alie-Cox’s second touchdown reception in as many weeks.

Alie-Cox's touchdown early in the third quarter ignited the fans in Lucas Oil Stadium as it propelled the Colts to a 21-13 lead. Kicker Matt Gay connected on three field goals to finish the scoring for Indianapolis but he missed two field-goal attempts. He missed his only field-goal attempt and point-after attempt against Cincinnati.

At 8-6, the Colts put themselves into a great position to play in their first playoff game since the 2021 season. They even have a chance to host a playoff game with Jacksonville hanging onto a small lead in the division.

It's a testament to the job Steichen has done this season. The Colts are in the wild card race with his starting quarterback, Anthony Richardson, out for the season and running back, Jonathan Taylor has only played in seven games. Most recently, Pittman Jr. and Moss both left the game against the Steelers due to injuries. Steichen deserves consideration for the AP NFL Coach of the Year award.

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