Steelers vs. Colts NFL Week 12 Monday Night Football Picks: T.J. Watt Meets Vulnerable Line

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T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after a tackle against the New Orleans Saints. Justin K. Aller/Getty Images/AFP.

The Pittsburgh Steelers (3-7) and Indianapolis Colts (4-6-1) will meet Monday night with the playoffs out of reach for these two former AFC powerhouses.

Both offenses have struggled to score with their new quarterbacks not living up to expectations, and their best defensive player has missed most of the games. But does the presence of T.J. Watt give the Steelers a decisive edge in this matchup?

The Steelers are a 2.5-point home favorite with a total of 39 points at many of the Pennsylvania betting sites. They are an underdog for the seventh game in a row, the team’s longest streak since 1991. Can they get a win in prime time?

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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Indianapolis Colts

Monday, November 28, 2022 – 08:15 PM EST at Lucas Oil Stadium

Pittsburgh’s Offense Shows Life Against Bengals

The Steelers only average 17 points per game this season, so it was a big deal when they scored 20 points in the first half against the Bengals last Sunday. It ended up being the first time all season the Steelers scored more than 20 points in regulation, and both of their games with more than 20 points have come against the Bengals.

With numbers like this, you might think the Steelers had a great game and perhaps a win:

  • Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett did not throw an interception for the second week in a row despite attempting 42 passes, and the Pittsburgh offense has not turned it over once in the two games since the bye week.
  • Running back Najee Harris rushed for at least 90 yards in back-to-back games for only the second time in his career.
  • The Steelers had offensive touchdowns on plays that gained 19 and 24 yards against the Bengals after having no offensive touchdown longer than 8 yards in Weeks 1-10 this season.

Not Enough

However, the second half was a rough one for Pickett and company. The Steelers gained two first downs on their first seven drives in the second half. Trailing 27-23 in the fourth quarter, the Steelers twice had a first down inside the Cincinnati 40 and ended up punting on both drives before the Bengals took control of the game with another touchdown in a 37-30 victory.

Joe Burrow shredded Pittsburgh’s defense for 355 yards and four touchdowns with three of them going to backup running back Samaje Perine. This was without No. 1 receiver Ja’Marr Chase playing as well.

The Steelers are 72-1-1 at home when they score at least 30 points and finish at least plus-2 in turnover differential. Sunday against Cincinnati is the first loss in this statistic after a disappointing day for a team that was hoping to go on a run.

Colts Push Eagles to the Brink Before Loss

Not to be outdone, the Colts only average 15.3 points per game this season, but they looked like they had the 8-1 Eagles on the ropes in interim coach Jeff Saturday’s first home game last Sunday.

Jonathan Taylor scored an opening-drive touchdown, but like the Steelers, the Colts had a frustrating second half. They could not turn a Jalen Hurts fumble into a touchdown on a short field and had to settle for a field goal on a drive with no first downs.

After forcing Hurts to take a terrible sack at midfield on fourth down, the Colts again went three-and-out despite great field position. They turned a third straight drive with great field position into a missed 50-yard field goal while leading 13-3. Missed field goals have been a killer for this franchise over the last couple of seasons.

The Eagles finally found the end zone in the fourth quarter, Taylor lost a bad fumble, then the Colts were stopped in the red zone again and had to settle for a short field goal to lead 16-10 late.

The Colts had a couple of chances to win the game on defense, but Hurts predictably used his legs on crucial third and fourth downs to deny them. Hurts ran right up the middle for 7 yards and the go-ahead touchdown with 1:20 left.

A Chance to Win It

Matt Ryan only needed a field goal for the win and having already led five fourth-quarter comebacks this season, this felt like it was very doable. The kick may have missed regardless, but you at least had some expectation that he could get into range.

But after one first down, the drive stalled with Ryan taking a sack, then throwing a checkdown on fourth-and-21 to end it. The Colts lost 17-16 despite leading for almost the entire game.

It would have been an incredible upset win for Jeff Saturday, but in the end, it felt just like your typical Frank Reich loss. The Colts blew a 10-point lead, the offense disappeared in crucial situations, the kicker did not deliver, and the defense could not close.

T.J. Watt vs. Indy’s Offensive Line

This season goes as the turnovers go for the Colts with Ryan at quarterback. When the Colts have multiple turnovers with Ryan, they are 1-3-1 with that ugly win in Denver where Russell Wilson helped with a late interception.

When the Colts do not have multiple turnovers with Ryan at quarterback, they are 3-1 with a shocking win over the Chiefs and nearly another one last week against the Eagles.

When Ryan has time to throw and isn’t trying to force the ball out to avoid a sack, or when he isn’t getting crushed and fumbling with ease, then this offense has some potential.

That is why the Steelers have to find ways to get those turnovers again. They have had two in each of the two games since T.J. Watt returned. Watt and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick have to be the difference makers with the turnovers.

Ryan Must Be Sacked

Ryan was 0-3 against the Steelers when he was with Atlanta. In the last meeting back in 2018, Watt sacked Ryan three times. That’s the kind of force he can be.

The Eagles were able to turn the game last week with some timely pressures and sacks of Ryan. Watt will need to do the same here against what is still one of the worst offensive lines this year.

The Colts lack that same kind of defensive playmaker now that linebacker Shaq Leonard, who was so good at forcing fumbles in 2021, is on injured reserve.

The Colts have just four picks in 11 games this season. They still have a decent number of fumble recovers with seven, but some of that has been offset by the offense losing a league-high nine fumbles.

Steelers vs. Colts: Best Bets and Prediction

The Colts have not allowed more than 27 points in any game this season, which is great for keeping games close enough for the fourth quarter. The Colts are also the only team through Week 11 to hold the Eagles and Chiefs under 20 points this season. Great stuff there.

However, outside of that dud in Denver (Indy’s 12-9 win in overtime), every team has scored at least 17 points on the Colts this year. The Steelers have playmakers, and the offense has actually looked the best it has all year in the last two games after the bye.

Mike Tomlin is 18-3 on Monday Night Football in his career, including a 9-3 road record. While he is only 11-10 ATS on Monday night, he is 8-2 ATS in games where he is an underdog or favored by fewer than four points.

Following the NFL odds, let’s go with the veteran coach to pull one out over Saturday in what should be another close one in the fourth quarter. Take the Steelers to cover for your NFL picks.

Score Prediction: Steelers 20 - Colts 17

NFL Pick: Steelers +2.5 (-110) at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

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Steelers +2.5 (-110)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.