INDIANAPOLIS – There was a marvelous fourth-quarter comeback. There were three blockbuster takeaways in the second quarter. There was splendid defensive play by the front seven all night.
In the end, however, victory eluded the Colts for the third time this season. And that, according to Coach Jim Caldwell, needs to change.
"The big thing is, we still are measured by wins around here," Caldwell said after the Colts fell by a 23-20 count to the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers. "We can see evidence we're getting a little better. But obviously we have to get over that threshold.
"It doesn't get any easier week after week. We just have to keep fighting and keep working. I think our guys have been preparing well. We just have to do a couple more things right to get ourselves in position to get a win."
Pittsburgh short-circuited Indy's valiant fourth-quarter comeback Sunday night when Shaun Suisham hit a 38-yard field goal with four seconds remaining.
Pittsburgh's winning score wiped out a rally led by Colts backup quarterback Curtis Painter. The Colts scored on an 80-yard drive to tie the game at 20-all with 2:09 left. Painter hit 5-of-7 passes for 60 yards on the march, including three to Pierre Garcon for 53 yards. Joseph Addai scored the touchdown on a tough six-yard run.
Painter replaced starter Kerry Collins with 12:10 remaining in the game. Collins was being examined for a possible concussion.
Painter's first three series were uneven. He misfired on three straight passes. Later, he was walloped from behind by James Harrison, lost the ball and could only watch helplessly as Troy Polamalu returned his fumble 16 yards for a touchdown that sent the Steelers up 20-13 with 5:13 remaining.
But that's when Painter rose to the occasion and led the tying 10-play drive. Or, as Caldwell said: "Once he got his feet underneath him, he really moved the ball down the field and did a real nice job for us, particularly with a limited amount of preparation."
Said Painter: "I think I settled down a little after the first drive. I threw a couple balls that I probably should have made. But I think after that, I felt pretty confident and I think things went OK."
Painter finished with 5-of-11 passing for 60 yards. Collins was 13-of-29 for 93 yards. Caldwell said afterward it was far too early to decide on a quarterback starter for the Colts' game next Monday night at Tampa Bay.
"We'll see after we have an opportunity to evaluate and see where we are from a health standpoint and look at all the other factors involved," Caldwell said.
On the Steelers' finishing drive, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger showed why he ranks among the best in the NFL. He hit 3-of-4 passes for 39 yards and scrambled for another 11 yards to set up Suisham's game-winner. Roethlisberger completed 25-of-37 passes for 364 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
Three big takeaways in the second quarter catapulted the Colts to a 13-10 halftime lead. The first was a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery by Robert Mathis that led to an Indy field goal. Then came a sack and forced fumble by Dwight Freeney and a fumble recovery by Jamaal Anderson, who returned it for a 47-yard touchdown. Then Joe Lefeged's interception led to another Colts field goal by Adam Vinatieri.
"The effort was exactly what we expected from our guys," Caldwell said. "They played hard and tough. An unbelievable defensive effort. Dwight had two sacks. Mathis did a great job. Our linebacking corps was all over the place."
Colts linebacker Pat Angerer was credited with 20 tackles.
"I think we're going to stick together, no matter what," Painter said. "That's the thing about this team. It's definitely not over yet. We're going to keep going, get back to work and try to get our first win next week."
FIRST QUARTER (12:43 remaining)
The Steelers got on the scoreboard first with a 48-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham on the game's opening drive. Ben Roethlisberger hit passes of 19 and 29 yards to Mike Wallace to set up the score. Steelers 3, Colts 0
FIRST QUARTER (3:29 remaining)
Pittsburgh needed only two plays and 53 seconds to stage this scoring drive. Rashard Mendenhall rushed for five yards on the first play. Then Roethlisberger saw Wallace get open in the Colts' secondary and hit him with a deep pass that Wallace carried in for an 81-yard touchdown. Suisham connected on the extra point. Steelers 10, Colts 0
SECOND QUARTER (6:14 remaining)
A big defensive play set up the Colts' first score. Robert Mathis sacked Roethlisberger, forcing a fumble that Mathis also recovered at midfield. Indy's offense went to work with a nice mix of runs and passes. When the drive stalled at the 3-yard line, Adam Vinatieri hit a 21-yard field goal. Reggie Wayne made the 800th catch of his Colts career with an 11-yard reception during the march.Steelers 10, Colts 3
SECOND QUARTER (1:46 remaining)
Huge defensive plays just kept coming from the Colts. This time, a ferocious sack by Dwight Freeney caused Roethlisberger to lose the ball at midfield. Jamaal Anderson returned the fumble 47 yards for a touchdown. Vinatieri hit the extra point. Colts 10, Steelers 10
SECOND QUARTER (15 seconds remaining)
The Colts' third takeaway of the quarter led to their first lead of the night. An errant pass by Roethlisberger was picked off by Indy's Joe Lefeged, who returned the interception 25 yards. A Pittsburgh penalty gave the Colts the ball at the Steelers' 12-yard line. When the Colts failed to gain a first down, Vinatieri connected on his second field goal.Colts 13, Steelers 10
FOURTH QUARTER (12:10 remaining)
The Steelers tied the game on a 44-yard field goal by Suisham, who earlier in the quarter had missed from 36 yards. Big plays on the drive were provided by Roethlisberger, who hit Heath Miller with a 30-yard pass and Emmanuel Sanders with an 18-yarder. Steelers 13, Colts 13
FOURTH QUARTER (5:13 remaining)
A big defensive play sent Pittsburgh into the lead. James Harrison slammed into Colts quarterback Curtis Painter on a sack. The hit dislodged the football from Painter's hand, and it flew toward Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, who carried it 16 yards for a touchdown. Suisham kicked the extra point.Steelers 20, Colts 13
FOURTH QUARTER (2:09 remaining)
Indy's Joseph Addai scored from six yards out to put the game back in a tie. Painter completed 5-of-7 passes for 60 yards on the 80-yard march. Three of his passes went to Pierre Garcon for 53 yards. Vinatieri hit the extra point. Colts 20, Steelers 20
FOURTH QUARTER (4 seconds remaining)
Suisham's 38-yard field goal won it for the Steelers. It came at the end of a 10-play, 60-yard drive that ate up 2:05.Steelers 23, Colts 20