There was every indication prior to 4:25 PM on Sunday that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would be fired up for a big game.
Just a week out from a key divisional game against the division rival Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers needed to show that they could make winning a habit.
And they had to do so against a marquee matchup with Andrew Luck, the best young quarterback in the game, stealing the spotlight from the 11th-year Pittsburgh veteran, who often did it the hard way and came out victorious.
Speaking of victories, it was Roethlisberger’s one and only chance to become just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to achieve his 100th victory in his first 150 starts.
These series of events conspired to heighten the significance of this evening matchup between the seesawing Steelers and the red-hot Indianapolis Colts, who brought a five-game winning streak into Heinz Field.
But who could imagine that we were about to witness one of the great quarterback performances not just in team history, but in the history of the game? And that Roethlisberger would become the first player ever to throw for over 500 yards twice in a career?
Not to mention, he became just the second player to throw for over five touchdowns in such a contest, the other being Y.A. Tittle.
On the day, the Steelers franchise quarterback completed 40 of 49 passes for 522 yards and six touchdowns while avoiding turning the ball over or even taking a sack. He averaged over 10 yards per pass attempt en route to a nearly perfect passer rating in his decimation of the Colts secondary.
And he even had to overcome some early second half blunders from his teammates in the process. After scoring on the opening drive, the Steelers’ second possession was hamstrung on the first play when Martavis Bryant dropped a wide open pass on which he was hit in stride with room to run. They then went three-and-out.
On the next possession, Roethlisberger hit Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 16-yard completion on the first play. He went down without being contacted, but he had the ball stripped away when he got up. And then LeGarrette Blount lost a fumble of his own inside the 10-yard line for the only red zone failure of the day.
It’s almost difficult to fathom that Roethlisberger’s day could have gotten any better, yet it could have, as noted above. He could have hit Antonio Brown for an 85-yard touchdown early in the second half, though the Steelers went on to score on that drive anyway.
His 40 completions, 522 passing yards, and six touchdowns are all franchise records. On the year, he possesses a career-best 105.6 passer rating while completing a career-high 68.4 percent of his passes. He is on pace to tie his franchise-record 32 touchdown passes from 2007, and he’s also on his best interception pace in his career as well, with just three through half the season.
Roethlisberger threw only five interceptions in 2010, but he played only 12 games that year. He only attempted 240 passes that year; he already has thrown 301 passes in 2014, and he’s averaging less than an interception per 100 throws.
More than that, he showed that, when he has the proper protection, he can air it out with the best of the modern generation of quarterbacks, a criticism he often receives. Sometimes it just takes a marquee matchup to bring it out: his other 500-yard game came against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in 2009.