PITTSBURGH — Brian Hoyer had just about done it all as an 11-year veteran quarterback — well, that's what he thought heading into Sunday's Week 9 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But when Indianapolis Colts starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett went down with a knee injury early in the second quarter, Hoyer found himself in unfamiliar territory.
"I think this is the first time I had to come in for an injured quarterback," Hoyer thought to himself.
Hoyer has started plenty of games throughout his career — 37 of them, to be exact — but he's spent a good portion of his career as a trusted backup, which is why the Colts jumped at the chance to sign him as their No. 2 just before the start of the regular season.
And Hoyer on Sunday showed exactly why he's thrived in that role, as he came on in relief and turned in a solid outing in the Colts' narrow 26-24 road loss at Heinz Field.
In all, Hoyer completed 17-of-26 passes (65.4 percent) for 168 yards with three touchdowns to one interception for an overall quarterback rating of 105.9.
Hoyer's three touchdown passes tied his career-high, which he's reached on five other occasions. It's his first three touchdown game since Dec. 6, 2015, at Buffalo.
"You try to prepare the best you can all week, and heaven forbid something like this happens," Hoyer told reporters after the game. "You just try to come in, and I'm trying to figure out what plays I like (and) communicating with Frank [Reich] and Nick [Sirianni] and kind of go from there."
Brissett suffered his knee injury early in the second quarter when one of his teammates was pushed into his leg by a Steelers defender. He jogged off the field under his own power, but after an evaluation on the sideline, the team elected to go with Hoyer for the rest of the game.
Entering on a 2nd-and-Goal play from the Pittsburgh 12-yard line, Hoyer's first pass as a member of the Colts — on 3rd and Goal — would fall into the hands of tight end Jack Doyle for an 11-yard touchdown to put Indy up 10-3.
That play certainly helped calm the nerves.
"It helps when the first pass is a touchdown," Hoyer said. "Jack ran a great route. You just get in the flow of the game."
Hoyer wasn't so fortunate on the Colts' next possession — he telegraphed a pass Doyle's way, which was intercepted by Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and returned 96 yards for a touchdown — but he didn't let that play deter him.
On the Colts' very next drive, Hoyer led a six-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a beautiful 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Zach Pascal, putting the Colts back ahead, 16-10.
With the odds stacked against the Colts, who were playing with their backup quarterback and their backup center, Josh Andrews, after starter Ryan Kelly was knocked out of the game with a neck injury, Hoyer also put his team in position to get a win late after the Steelers took the lead.
Down two points, 26-24, and starting a final drive at his own 15-yard line with one timeout and 2:28 remaining, Hoyer would get the Colts all the way to the Steelers' 25. But with 1:14 left in the game, kicker Adam Vinatieri's go-ahead field goal attempt would go wide left, and Pittsburgh would kneel it out from there to escape with a narrow home victory.
"He did a great job. He's a pro," Doyle said of Hoyer. "I've played against him a few times. There was a never a moment where we were like, 'Oh crap.' It was like, 'Yeah we got this. Let's go.' He did a great job stepping in."
It's not yet known whether Brissett or Hoyer will start next Sunday against the Miami Dolphins at Lucas Oil Stadium. Head coach Frank Reich said after the game that Brissett will undergo further testing on his knee, which will determine his more immediate status.
But if Hoyer is pressed into action again, he'll be ready — just like he was against the Steelers.
"It was sweet, man," Brissett said of Hoyer's performance. "I thought he did a great job — especially with limited reps that he's had. He played great he made throws that I knew I wouldn't. That's what makes him special so I'm glad he's on our team."