It wasn't the type of monster game that James Harrison is accustomed to registering, not from a player who has four multiple-sack games and leads the team with three forced fumbles. But, in a game in which the defense had to use a variety of substitution packages against the Colts, he had 12 tackles (three for losses), a sack and two quarterback hurries. He even found time to make a special-teams tackle. No other player had more than five tackles. The Steelers didn't get that many tackles combined from the three players used to replace injured OLB LaMarr Woodley.
A quick look at the top performances from the loss yesterday:
1. TROY POLAMALU'S DROPPED INTERCEPTION: Coach Mike Tomlin said games are sometimes decided by teams who catch interceptions and those who do not, and the Steelers were a perfect example. But no drop was bigger than the one by safety Troy Polamalu near the end of the first half, one that would have given the Steelers a seemingly insurmountable 24-7 lead. On third-and-8 from the Steelers' 37, Polamalu stepped in front of a pass for TE Dallas Clark that hit him right in the arms. Minutes later, the Colts scored a TD to make it 17-14.
2. BEN ROETHLISBERGER'S SECOND INTERCEPTION: After Jeff Reed's field goal made it 20-17 with 7:57 remaining, Roethlisberger threw a third-down pass over the middle from his own 34 that deflected off Santonio Holmes and was intercepted by CB Tim Jennings, leading to the winning TD.
3. MOORE STOPPED TWICE ON THE GOAL LINE: Despite scoring on two 1-yard runs earlier in the game, Mewelde Moore was stopped twice from the 1 by Colts DT Eric Foster with 8:01 remaining, forcing the Steelers to settle for a field goal.
4. ROETHLISBERGER'S INTERCEPTION AT THE END OF THE HALF: Leading, 17-7, with the ball at their 16, Roethlisberger tried to thread a bad pass to Holmes on third-and-two that was intercepted, setting up a touchdown and changing the momentum right before halftime.
5. WAYNE'S 'TIPPED' TOUCHDOWN: No play epitomized the fortunes of the secondary better than Reggie Wayne's 65-yard touchdown catch on the Colts' first possession, a play in which CB Ike Taylor had the ball deflect off both hands as he leaped to try to make an interception.
That's the number of rushing yards the Steelers managed on 26 carries against the Colts, their second-lowest total of the season. What's even more disturbing is that the Colts ranked 25th in the league in rush defense, allowing an average of 143.6 yards per game.
Leading, 17-7, with 1:30 remaining in the first half, the Steelers had third-and-two at their own 16 -- a situation that screamed for a run and conjured memories of Bill Cowher's oft-used declaration that "sometimes a punt is a good play." Instead, Roethlisberger, sore arm and all, tried a pass down the numbers to Santonio Holmes that was badly underthown and picked off by cornerback Keiwan Ratliff. "A bad pass," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. The Colts converted the turnover into a touchdown.
"When they play cover-2, they're not going to let you throw the ball deep. We took our one shot down the field. When you play cover-2, it takes away a lot of big plays." -- Hines Ward on the lack of deep passes.
The Chargers have never won a regular-season game in Pittsburgh (0-12), but they are 2-0 in playoff games -- both at Three Rivers Stadium. The Steelers have won five of the past six meetings overall.
CB Ike Taylor called his performance "very frustrating," and for good reason. He had perfect coverage and really couldn't play two passes to receiver Reggie Wayne much better, only to see one result in a 65-yard TD and the other a 16-yard completion. In both instances, Taylor got his hands on each pass, only to have the ball deflect to Wayne. The first had the biggest impact: He had single coverage and looked like he would make an interception at the 32. Instead, Wayne's TD made it 7-7.
Gerry Dulac can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .