INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts fell to 5-3 on the season Sunday with their 26-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in their 2019 Week 9 matchup at Heinz Field.
The Colts had to endure some adversity early on, as starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett, as well as starting center Ryan Kelly, were both knocked out of the game with injuries. Still, with a stingy defensive performance and a gutty effort from backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, the Colts had an opportunity to win the ballgame late, but kicker Adam Vinatieri's potential game-winning field goal attempt from 43 yards out with 1:14 remaining went wide left, giving the Steelers a narrow two-point victory.
The Colts, in all, had three turnovers on the day against a Steelers' defense that came into the game ranked second in the NFL in takeaways.
"We know what the Steelers do. They're good a creating turnovers and negative plays, and we said if we can minimize turnovers and win that battle, and minimize the negative plays, then we'd win the game, and we didn't do that," head coach Frank Reich said. "So that's a credit to Pittsburgh. They did a good job creating those turnovers and getting the negative plays."
Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Sunday's loss to the Steelers:
» BRISSETT INJURED: It was early in the second quarter when quarterback Jacoby Brissett dropped back for a pass and went down with a knee injury after being rolled up on by a teammate that had been knocked back by a Steelers' defender. After being evaluated by trainers and jogging off the field, Brissett was originally ruled questionable to return, but the team eventually made the decision to stick with backup Brian Hoyer for the rest of the afternoon. Reich said after the game that the original belief is Brissett suffered an MCL sprain, but he’ll undergo further testing to determine the exact injury and its severity. Expect to hear more on that later today, but for now, Brissett's availability for next Sunday's Week 10 matchup against the Miami Dolphins is in question. "It was more lateral," Brissett said when asked why he wasn't able to get back into the game against the Steelers. "My job is lateral, so that was the focus. I didn't think it was ready to go. We did a couple tests and the doctors confirmed. I'm in there trying to push it to get out there. It just wouldn't have been smart."
» HOYER STEPS IN: The Colts signed Brian Hoyer just before the start of the regular season for days like Sunday. An 11-year NFL veteran, Hoyer came into Sunday's game against the Steelers with 65 games to his credit, and he more than held his own when being sent in relief of the injured Brissett, completing 17-of-26 passes (65.4 percent) for 168 yards with three touchdowns to one interception for an overall quarterback rating of 105.9; his three touchdown passes ties a career-best. Hoyer also got the Colts within striking distance of a potential game-winning field goal on their final drive — all told, he went up and beyond the call on Sunday. "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."
» UNCHARACTERISTIC MISTAKES: The Colts showed back in Week 5 that they can go into a hostile environment on the road and limit the mistakes to earn a big win when they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. They knew they'd likely need a repeat performance Sunday to fly home with a win over the host Steelers, and that didn't end up coming to fruition. The Colts, in all, were called for seven accepted penalties for 89 yards, allowed five sacks and had three turnovers — one interception and two lost fumbles — that, coupled with a missed extra-point attempt, as well as the potential game-winning kick by Vinatieri, was the difference on Sunday. "We made some plays, but we missed some plays," Reich said. "We had one or two mental errors that hurt us that you don't see in the game of things that we know of things that happen. That's what we talked about as a team. We had too many penalties, too many mistakes, and then turnovers to overcome on the road. You can't have mental errors and opportunities that you don't take advantage of."
» FILLING IN FOR HILTON: Reich announced Friday that No. 1 wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was expected to miss three to four weeks after going down with a calf injury during Wednesday's practice, setting in motion the need for the rest of the players at the position to step up in his absence. On Sunday against the Steelers, Zach Pascal (five receptions, 76 yards, touchdown), Parris Campbell (five receptions, 53 yards) and Chester Rogers (three receptions, 22 yards, touchdown) helped fill that void to the tune of 13 combined receptions for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Combined with contributions from the running backs and tight ends in the pass game, the Colts, even with a backup quarterback and center playing for most of the game, showed they can move the ball against a solid defense without Hilton on the field. "Yeah, they all stepped up," Hoyer said. "Everybody did a good job of filling in and making plays."
» NOTES OF INTEREST:
— The Indianapolis defense held the Steelers to 273 net yards (90 rushing) in addition to a 1-of-4 mark in the red zone. The defense also posted 1.0 sack, 5.0 tackles for loss, one interception, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and a safety.
— Brian Hoyer's three touchdown passes tied his career-high, which he reached on five other occasions. It's his first three touchdown game since Dec. 6, 2015 at Buffalo.
— See more stats and notes from Sunday's game by clicking here.