Sunday was proof that Colts’ Alec Pierce shouldn’t be judged for underwhelming season

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Alec Pierce isn’t having the kind of season that many expected him to, but it’s clear that Pierce isn’t to blame.
Dec 31, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Alec Pierce (14)
Dec 31, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Alec Pierce (14) / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the season, everyone expected Alec Pierce to take a second-year leap and create an elite wide receiver duo with Michael Pittman Jr. for the Indianapolis Colts. However, after 16 games, Pierce only has 32 receptions for 514 yards and two touchdowns. That’s nine less receptions and 79 less yards than Pierce had in 16 games as a rookie. Additionally, Pierce has only been Indy’s third-most productive receiver, being passed up by rookie Josh Downs.

This underwhelming production has led to some questioning the skills of the second-year receiver and his development. However, a close look shows that Pierce hasn’t been the problem and that was, again, evident on Sunday in Indy’s 23-20 win over the Las Vegas Raiders.

In the game, Pierce had just one reception but it was a big one. On a third down, quarterback Gardner Minshew found Pierce deep for a 58-yard touchdown. The play showed that Pierce has all of the skills to do what the Colts drafted him to do: make big plays down the field.

As great as the play was, it was a play that wasn’t made that really showcased the problem with Pierce this year. Earlier in the game, before Minshew and Pierce connected on this beautiful touchdown, the Colts ran a similar play that sent Pierce on a deep post. The route combination worked to perfection, as Pierce was left wide open running down the field. There was only one problem: Gardner Minshew didn’t throw him the ball.

Matt Ryan, who was throwing Pierce deep balls last season, was apart of the broadcast team on Sunday and made sure to point out the missed opportunity.

Alec Pierce can make even more big plays for Colts

This wasn’t an anomaly; it was a microcosm of Pierce’s season. The broadcast crew for the game made sure to note that Pierce entered Week 17 having run 199 go routes— 40 more go routes than any other wide receiver in the NFL. Pierce has only been targeted on 14 of those go routes. With so few targets, there’s no way Pierce can produce like everyone expected him to.

When opportunity comes his way, Pierce has made plays more times than not. As his career with the Colts continues, the team will have to find a way for him to be involved more consistently.