PITTSBURGH (AP)—Ben Roethlisberger is a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in his fifth season. That doesn’t mean he still can’t learn a valuable lesson from Peyton Manning: Sometimes, inaccuracy beats impatience.
Manning took advantage of Roethlisberger’s fourth quarter interception to find Dominic Rhodes out of the backfield on a 17-yard touchdown pass with 3:04 remaining for Indianapolis’ only lead, and the Colts rallied in a virtual must-win game to beat the Steelers 24-20 on Sunday.
Manning also hit Reggie Wayne on a 65-yard touchdown pass play on a tipped ball that wasn’t well thrown and Dallas Clark on a 2-yard scoring pass six seconds before halftime following an unnecessary interception by Roethlisberger, helping end the Colts’ 40-year losing streak in Pittsburgh.
“Coach (Mike) Tomlin told us all week they are a team that likes to score before the half and at the end of the game,” Steelers linebacker James Farrior said. “That’s what happened to us.”
The Colts (5-4) had dropped their last 12 in Pittsburgh counting the postseason, dating to a 41-7 win in 1968 when the Steelers played at now-demolished Pitt Stadium.
“They certainly are tough to get here in Pittsburgh,” Colts coach Tony Dungy said.
Except by teams quarterbacked by Mannings.
Pittsburgh (6-3) lost to a Manning-led team at home for the second time in three weeks despite leading 20-17 on Jeff Reed’s 24-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter. They were beaten by Eli Manning’s Giants 21-14 on Oct. 26, again after a fourth-quarter comeback.
The first matchup between the AFC teams since Pittsburgh’s stunning 21-18 win over the top-seeded Colts in the AFC divisional playoffs in January 2006— Indianapolis was a big favorite to win the Super Bowl—followed the pattern of that game as the Steelers opened an early double digit lead, then tried to hold on.
In this one, a lucky tip and Roethlisberger’s haste to try to get points when Pittsburgh wasn’t in position to score late in the first half helped get the Colts back into the game after Pittsburgh led 7-0 and 17-7. All three of Roethlisberger’s interceptions were pivotal.
“You’ll never hear me say ‘I’ anything, but I lost this game,” said Roethlisberger, who appeared to be crying into a towel when reporters entered the locker room. “I take it on myself. I let the guys down on offense and defense. It hurts, but we’ll learn from it.”
The Colts avoided going down by five games to Tennessee (9-0) in the AFC South and stayed on the fringe of the wild-card race; a loss would have left them with little margin for error in their final seven games.
“We definitely needed the game as far as confidence,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes accounted for all 32 yards on Indianapolis’ game-winning drive that followed Tim Jennings’ interception at the Steelers’ 32 with 4:44 to play. The backup running back carried three times for 15 yards ahead of his TD catch, in which Manning froze the defense with a play-action fake.
“I was the third option, but he saw me running open and threw it and I made a good catch,” Rhodes said.
With the Colts’ last-in-the-league running game unable to get going against the league’s top-ranked defense, Manning, who was 21-of-40 for 240 yards, often threw into coverage as the Steelers loaded up with six defensive backs, yet repeatedly converted key throws.
“It was important for us to capitalize (on the interceptions),” Manning said after the Colts followed up on an 18-15 victory over New England. “We hung in there, it truly was a team effort, and this is what we needed.”
After Pittsburgh drove 62 yards for Mewelde Moore’s 1-yard touchdown run on its opening possession, Manning’s too-high pass intended for Wayne took a fortunate bounce off Ike Taylor’s hand directly to Wayne, who put an inside-out move on Ryan Clark to score. Wayne made six catches for 114 yards.
“Some of the balls that bounced against us early on (this season), we got today,” Dungy said.
Roethlisberger, playing despite a separated shoulder that kept him out of practice until Friday, came back to complete two passes on third-and-long situations on a 77-yard drive ended by Moore’s second 1-yard TD run. Jeff Reed later hit a 42-yard field goal to make it 17-7.
Rather than trying to preserve the lead, Roethlisberger forced a throw into tight coverage on third-and-2 from his 16 and Keiwan Ratliff intercepted at the Pittsburgh 30 with 1:24 left in the half. Unexpectedly given good field position, Manning found Clark open in the front of the end zone to cut it to 17-14.
The Colts tied it on Adam Vinatieri’s 36-yard field goal on their opening drive of the second half.
The Colts said their own in-game report that WR Marvin Harrison sustained a concussion was inaccurate. … Steelers RB Willie Parker (shoulder) missed his fifth game in the last six. … Manning had not been sacked in three games until being sacked twice. Pittsburgh came into the game with a league-leading 32 sacks. … Hines Ward made nine catches for 116 yards, with his 41-yard reception leading to Moore’s second TD run. … Roethlisberger has 8 interceptions in his last 10 quarters.