If at first you don't succeed ... 

It was a comeback from a 17-point deficit that snapped a three-game losing streak and clinched the AFC North Division championship, but the Steelers' second-half resurrection against Indianapolis was rooted much more in attention to detail than it was drama.

"I don't know if it was that dramatic," head coach Mike Tomlin maintained after Sunday afternoon's 28-24 victory over the Colts at Heinz Field. "It's a fine line between drinking wine and squashing grapes, as we say in this business.

"Sometimes it's very subtle."

Two plays illustrate Tomlin's point.

Late in the second quarter the Steelers had wide receiver Diontae Johnson open deep against single coverage but Johnson cut inside cornerback T.J. Carrie, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball to the outside and the pass fell incomplete. The play ended with Roethlisberger gesturing in apparent frustration.

Late in the third quarter Johnson got open deep against single coverage again but this time stayed outside of cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and was able to make a diving catch in the end zone. The play ended with Roethlisberger celebrating a touchdown with his offensive linemen and gesturing skyward.

"We had a shot for it," Roethlisberger said of the one that got away, first-and-10 from the Steelers' 43-yard line with 14 seconds left in the second quarter and the Steelers trailing, 21-7. "We weren't quite on the same page. I mean, we were just a little bit off."

It was a different story, subtly but significantly, on first-and-10 from the Indianapolis 39 and the Steelers trailing, 24-7, with 3:23 left in the third.

"It was something we talked about at halftime," Roethlisberger continued. "I actually got on the board, drew it up, showed him what I was wanting him to do. That's what I was most proud of him and the rest of the guys. His touchdown in the second half was a very similar play, very similar coverage. He did exactly what we talked about.

"I just can't say enough about the adjustment that he made and the play he made in bouncing back and being spectacular on the play for me."

Added wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster on the touchdown that drew the Steelers to within 24-14: "Earlier in the game we had the same play to Diontae. Had some miscommunication on the 'go' ball. So it's something that we saw early in the game, so we came back to it. It was a great play and I'd say (Johnson) gave us some momentum."

The third and fourth quarters were full of such individual and collective finishes.

Blitzes that hadn't quite gotten there in time instead got home. Passes for apparent touchdowns that had been dropped started to be caught. Even a running game that produced 4 yards on seven first-half carries contributed three rushing first downs in the third and fourth quarters.

"We played better," Tomlin said. "We got open more. We made better throws. We protected better, what have you. It's all a collective. We thought some chunk plays were there (in the first half). We didn't necessarily get them or capitalize on them, but that wasn't going to stop us. We weren't going to be deterred.

"It was a critical component in terms of us getting back in the game."

MORE THAN T-SHIRTS AND HATS: The significance of the comeback, achieved on the heels of three consecutive losses and a first half in which the Steelers had been badly outplayed, was a much-discussed subject in the aftermath of winning the division championship.

Particularly as it related to the effect of such a victory on the Steelers' confidence.

"We needed this game," defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt said. "That's a good football team we just beat."

Cornerback Mike Hilton had a more matter-of-fact response.

"Guys were still confident," he maintained. "Those three losses weren't the end of the world so nobody was stressing. We just knew we had to re-focus up, we did that well today and now we're AFC North champs."

Roethlisberger provided perhaps the most appropriate context when asked if the victory sent a message to the rest of the NFL by re-establishing the Steelers' capabilities in the wake of three consecutive losses.

"We don't need to send messages to other teams," he said. "We need to send messages to ourselves. We need to prove to each other that we can do it, that we have guys in this locker room that can make plays, that are special talents.

"Sometimes you just need a little shock to rejuvenate yourself and to believe again."

Added defensive end Cam Heyward: "We understand it's one game but it's a culmination of what we've done so far to win this division. I hope it's something we can build on. We don't have to play perfect but we can still battle back."