The aftermath in the bowels of Heinz Field was much like what had transpired for 60 dizzying minutes on the playing surface _ hard to imagine but easy to appreciate.
“It’s good to be sitting at 4-4,” head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged after Sunday afternoon’s remarkable, 26-24 survival of the Colts. “I never thought I would hear myself say that.”
The Steelers have climbed out of an 0-3 hole and made it back to .500 at the season’s midpoint.
All it took, among other things, was the third-longest pick-six in franchise history, including the postseason (96 yards by safety Minkah Fitzpatrick), running back Trey Edmunds leading the Steelers in rushing (with 73 yards on 12 carries), offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva recovering a fumble in the end zone for a safety that prevented an Indianapolis touchdown following a sack, a 51-yard field goal by Chris Boswell on an untimed down to close the second quarter, and Adam Vinatieri missing a 43-yard field goal that would have given the Colts the lead with 1:11 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“It’s big time,” outside linebacker T.J. Watt said of 4-4. “It’s not where we want to be but it’s good for where we’ve come from.”
Especially considering how they had to get there.
“We have our first team, our second team and our third team, like that,” strong safety Terrell Edmunds said. “But at the same time we just have a bunch of players that can come out and try to win. We’re all going for the same thing, we all want the win, so whoever’s in the game, full trust in them.
“I know you saw how ‘Duck’ (quarterback Devlin Hodges) came in and did his thing (against the Chargers). I know you saw how Trey came in and did his thing (against the Colts), how (quarterback) Mason (Rudolph) came in and did his thing (when healthy enough to replace Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback). We just have the next man up and you gotta go make a play.”
Added cornerback Joe Haden: “We’ve been going through a lot of injuries, especially with Ben at the beginning of the season, and then just trickling (defensive end Stephon) Tuitt just a lot of people having to step up. It’s just the next-man-up thing is really a thing for us, that’s really what we live by. There’s no non-starters, there’s starters-in-waiting, like ‘Coach T’ says, so people are just performing, making plays. I’m just so happy we got this win.”
YOUR TURN: Watt had three tackles for a loss, three quarterback hits, two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery on Oct. 28 against Miami, including the pass-rushing hat trick (sack/strip/fumble recovery on the same play).
Fellow outside linebacker Bud Dupree had two sacks against the Colts (including a sack/strip/fumble recovery), two tackles for a loss and three quarterback hits.
Watt leads the Steelers with 7.5 sacks on the season (1.5 against Indy) and Dupree is second with six.
“No competition,” Watt said. “If there is, it’s all healthy competition. We’re so happy for each other when we make a play because we see the work that we put in and we both want so much just to be able to affect the game any way we possibly can.
“We’re just so happy when anybody on this defense makes a play. But when we share a room with Bud and I’m around him a lot, how could I not be happy with seeing him play so well?”
Watt and Dupree are “providing the wave that the rest of us get to ride defensively,” Tomlin said.
They did so on Sunday against a Colts offensive line that included three No. 1 draft picks (center Ryan Kelly, left guard Quenton Nelson and left tackle Anthony Castonzo; Kelly was knocked out due to injury).
“We prepared for it,” Dupree said. “We knew they had great payers up front. They got No. 1s up front, we have No. 1s up front, too.
“Coach Tomlin and ‘Buts’ (defensive coordinator Keith Butler) did a great job of planning. They put us in the right positions.”
HAVING A RECORD YEAR: Two of the Steelers’ previous three wins had come against the then-winless Dolphins and the still-winless Bengals.
The Colts came to Heinz Field at 5-2 and left at 5-3.
“Yes, records matter, and we know that we had beaten a couple teams with not the best records in the world,” Rudolph said. “But every single one matters, we’ll take it. These are good teams, this isn’t my brother playing Wofford at Clemson. You’re never playing the Woffords week to week, and that’s something you find out quick when you get to this level.
“You can’t take anyone lightly, especially in our current state. You have to prepare like it’s the Super Bowl every week and that’s how we treat it.”
Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 8 game against the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field
KEEP SCRUBBING: Tomlin emphasized there’s still a lot of work to be done now that the Steelers have scrambled back to .500.
“We will work forever trying to get that September stench off of us,” he said. “But that is life in this thing and I appreciate the effort and the fight.”