2022 NFL season, Week 12: What We Learned from Steelers' win over Colts on Monday

Pittsburgh Steelers
2022 · 4-7-0
Indianapolis Colts
2022 · 4-7-1


  1. Kenny Pickett is starting to figure it out. The rookie isn't lighting up the stat sheet, nor is he compiling a highlight reel for the ages, but with each week, Pickett is taking positive steps toward becoming a quality NFL quarterback. He completed 20 of 28 passes for 174 yards and a passer rating of 87.5, but it wasn't about the numbers Monday night. Pickett looked composed, decisive and made the plays necessary to keep scoring drives going. What was most impressive was how Pickett navigated the pocket, escaped when necessary, and consistently found targets downfield for important completions. It's not as if he's playing behind a steel wall -- Yannick Ngakoue had a short outburst of sacks that exposed Pittsburgh's inconsistencies up front -- but Pickett's mobility and athleticism are precisely what a young quarterback needs to overcome a lack of reliable protection. Again, his numbers aren't gaudy and won't win any awards, but those who watched the game Monday night will likely agree: Pickett went out and won the game (with the help of a number of teammates).
  2. The Steelers have their connection of the future. Pickett and George Pickens are going to rack up a whole lot of yards in Pittsburgh in the years ahead. Monday night stands as proof of their potential, which finished at just three completions for 57 yards, but it was so much more than that. Pickett's 35-yard pass to Pickens in the first half required the rookie receiver's latest highlight-reel grab, and also set up the Steelers for their first touchdown of the night. The most important connection won't make the highlight reel, but helped the Steelers score their decisive fourth-quarter touchdown, thanks to a third-and-9 completion in which Pickett slid left to avoid pressure, flipped his hips forward and threw a perfectly placed pass to Pickett, who made an excellent diving grab to pick up 13 yards and a fresh set of downs. Eight plays later, Benny Snell scored from 2 yards out to give Pittsburgh a 24-17 lead, made official only after -- you guessed it -- Pickett scrambled and found Pickens in the corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion. The volume will increase in the future, but it's already obvious these two have a special connection.
  3. Indianapolis' offensive issues rear their ugly head. We can admit Matt Ryan looks past his prime when it comes to processing and delivering passes under pressure, and the Colts' current offensive line isn't helping matters. Ryan appears visibly uncomfortable when dropping to pass, which interrupts his decision-making (including in the crucial split-second in which he could deliver a pass instead of taking a sack) and leads to sacks. Pittsburgh recorded three of them Monday night, and nearly forced a turnover when one sack produced a Ryan fumble. While we're on that topic, a fumble on the goal line -- it was likely Jonathan Taylor's fault, even if the official scorer pinned it on Ryan -- robbed the Colts of their second-best scoring opportunity of the night. Those errors are guaranteed to be costly, and for a team like the Colts that is struggling mightily to produce over four quarters, they simply can't afford to make these mistakes. Add in Ryan's interception early in the game and you have a combination of blunders that proved to be the difference against a team the Colts certainly could have defeated, but didn't.
  4. Jeff Saturday shows his inexperience on the national stage. The Colts' stunning hire started his head coaching career with a feel-good win over the Raiders, but two straight narrow losses have all but wiped that game from our memories. Saturday didn't help himself in the final minutes of Monday night's game, keeping two of his three timeouts in his pocket as the Colts were frantically attempting to score a game-tying touchdown. As the clock ticked down inside a minute, it seemed plainly obvious Saturday should call a timeout before a pivotal third-and-short. Instead, he and Ryan let the clock run to 34 seconds before handing off to Taylor on an inside run the entire national audience saw coming. The timeout that followed didn't produce a quality play, as Ryan bailed out of the pocket before desperately throwing a pass to Parris Campbell in double coverage, which fell incomplete and sealed the win for Pittsburgh. Saturday could have burned just one more timeout to gather his team's offense, which didn't look organized for much of the night. Instead, he'll keep them as souvenirs, perhaps as a reminder of how useful they can be in key moments.
  5. Pittsburgh's future beyond 2022 is exciting. The Steelers' defense has become an opportunistic one in recent weeks, which held true Monday night in the form of two takeaways. The defense has deserved most of the credit for the fact the Steelers aren't worse at this point. But Monday night gave us a glimpse of what their future might look like if Pickett pans out. Pickens is going to be a star, Diontae Johnson is under contract and Najee Harris, Anthony McFarland, Benny Snell and Jaylen Warren make up a hard-nosed backfield. They just need to improve their offensive line and tab replacements for veterans who might be headed elsewhere (or to retirement) in the years ahead. Once again, the Steelers are doing it the right way, and their rebuild won't take long before it starts producing a winner once again.

Next Gen stat of the game: George Pickens' 35-yard reception in the second quarter had a completion probability of just 23.9%, the third-least likely completion for the Steelers this season. Pickens owns two of the Steelers' top three least likely receptions in 2022.

NFL Research: After tallying nine giveaways in his first five games, Kenny Pickett has cleaned things up. Monday marked his third straight game without a giveaway, which was also Pittsburgh's first win on the road since Week 1 (at Cincinnati).

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