Sunday night in front of a national television audience the Pittsburgh Steelers destroyed the Indianapolis Colts 45-10 at Heinz Field. After turning the ball over on the opening kickoff and then four plays into their second possession, the Steelers were excellent offensively scoring on seven of nine possessions, which included a missed FG. The Steelers had eight plays of 20+ yards to six different players and outgainged the Colts 522-240. Defensively the Steelers limited the Colts to just 10 points even though Indy started four possessions inside Steelers territory. They forced two interceptions, a fumble, registered 5 sacks and totally shut down a Colts offense that managed only 11 first downs. After the game Indy Head Coach Chuck Pagano said, “They kicked our ass. Period.” That about sums it up. A virtual must-win game, the Steelers came through, blowing out the Colts for the second year in a row at Heinz. Positive momentum heading into two more huge match-ups at Cincinnati and then home versus Denver.
*William Gay entered the NFL’s concussion protocol late in the game after taking a hit to the head. Both Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Shazier played after entering the NFL’s concussion protocol after the Seahawks game.
Heath Miller was inactive due to a rib injury, Sean Spence was out with a hamstring injury and a healthy Jordan Todman was a surprise inactive in favor of Fitzgerald Toussaint.
Lather, rinse, repeat. They put up 45 Sunday night. It felt like it could have been 60. I’ll just update last week’s open.
The Steelers put up 30+ for the fifth time this season and the fourth time in a row, a first in team history. They punted once and have now punted just four times in the past three games. The passing game is unstoppable. If defenses choose to single cover the Steelers outside receivers, as the Raiders and Browns did, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant will torch them. Double the outside guys with help over the top and Ben will exploit the middle of the field with Heath Miller, Markus Wheaton and DeAngelo Williams. This week everyone was involved with Jesse James capably filling in for Heath MIller. The offense converted 8-13 3rd downs and went 3-4 in the red zone.
*I have little doubt that Ben Roethlisberger would be at the forefront of the MVP discussion had he been healthy all season. Another game, another routine 24-39, 364 yards and four touchdowns, the first time Ben has had four consecutive 300-yard passing games in his career. He also threw for 200+ yards in the first half for the fourth consecutive game, the first time that has been done since Dan Fouts did it in 1981. Ben leads the NFL in yards/attempt at 8.88 and yards/game at 335. He was great throwing the deep ball again and other than an ill-advised throw or two, one at the goal line into triple coverage, he was pretty much on-the-mark all game. He did a great job of running the two-minute drill at the end of the first half and his TD throw to Markus Wheaton with 10 seconds left in the half was perfect. A lot of balls into tight windows and a 13-yard scramble to boot. Outstanding.
*The Steelers wideouts can’t be covered. “If they’re even, they’re leavin’.” The raw speed of all three guys is something that probably isn’t talked about enough. Defenders just flat out can’t run with them. Antonio Brown 8-118, 2 TDs, Martavis Bryant 4-114, 1 TD, Markus Wheaton 3-50, 1 TD. Bryant had a catch of 68 yards and AB one for 48. The Steelers now have 19 pass plays of 40+ yards. No other NFL team has more than 11. (h/t Chris Adamski) Brown is second in the league in catches and yards (93-1,310) trailing only Julio Jones and Bryant is second in the league averaging 20.1 yards/catch. He now has 15 touchdowns in 17 career games. The Bengals played two high safeties to protect against the deep ball in the last meeting between the two teams which the Bengals won. I would expect more of the same this week.
*DeAngelo Williams had 165 all-purpose yards and another very strong rushing game with 26 carries for 134 yards. Williams continues to show excellent patience and vision.
*When the offensive stats are so outstanding the offensive line doesn’t get a lot of attention because there are so many other accolades being handed out. The line was excellent again and both David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert are playing at a Pro Bowl level. No sacks. 522 yards of total offense. The guys upfront are getting it done.
*DeAngelo Williams put it on the ground twice, losing one and now has three fumbles on the season. Turnovers are about the only thing that can slow this offense.
*Martavis Bryant still has upside. He’s not a polished route-runner and there were two potential TD catches he could have made that he didn’t. They were difficult catches for sure, one behind him and one high, but if he is going to be among the game’s elite, he’s got to start making those catches.
The Steelers did what they needed to do, highlighted by holding the Colts to only 3 points when they started their first two possessions deep in Steelers territory. This isn’t a good Colts offense, but the Steelers defense didn’t let them get into the game early and then teed-off on them late.
*The defense generated three turnovers. Jarvis Jones made his first career interception to stop the Colts opening drive, Brandon Boykin, finally seeing playing time after being limited to special teams to this point, corralled another after a nice pass-break-up by William Gay and James Harrison recorded a strip sack that was recovered by Vince Williams.
*The Steelers defense continues to take away the opponent’s run-game forcing them to be one-dimensional. They limited the Colts to 54 yards on 18 carries.
*James Harrison had a big fourth quarter recording three sacks and forcing a fumble. He is now 3 sacks shy of passing Jason Gildon for the Steelers all-time record. While Harrison was effective, it’s still baffling that he played almost twice as many snaps as Jarvis Jones who I think is playing the best football of his career.
*Vince Williams didn’t play a lot, but made an impact when he was in. On one Colts series while in for Ryan Shazier he made the tackle on three consecutive plays.
*Brandon Boykin obviously wasn’t solely responsible for the Steelers defensive turnaround, as Mike Tomlin made a specific note of pointing out in his postgame remarks, but he did what was asked of him and I would expect him to be the Steelers nickel corner going forward.
*Will Allen had a nice bounce-back game after struggling the past few weeks.
*The Steelers CBs still continue to play a lot of off-coverage on third-and-short and Matt Hasselbeck took advantage on a couple of occasions for easy first down throws. He was the ideal guy to play press against as he wasn’t going to beat them deep.
*Missed tackles continue to be the issue that leads to the opponent’s biggest plays. We saw it again on Sunday.
*Antonio Brown. 71-yard punt return for a TD. Electric.
*Jacoby Jones, who has looked terrible from the minute he was signed, fumbled and lost the opening kickoff and fumbled a punt that the Steelers recovered toward the end of the first half. He fumbled more times in the first half than Le’Veon Bell has fumbled in his career in 799 touches. I will be more than a little surprised if he is a member of the team when they practice on Wednesday.
*Chris Boswell again showed he’s human, missing the second FG of his career.
*The kickoff coverage unit gave up another long kickoff return into Steelers territory that was further aided by a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Boswell.
*Keith Butler did a good job of mixing up the defensive scheme. After the game Colts QB Matt Hasselbeck said, “We didn’t see a lot we prepared for. They had me out-of-sync with dropping eight.” After getting shredded by Russell Wilson last week, that’s a nice adjustment by Butler.
*The Steelers converted another 2-point conversion, this time to Will Johnson. The Steelers should go for two after every first half TD and let the game situation dictate what to do in the second half.
*Signing Jacoby Jones was a questionable decision to begin with. Tomlin has given him multiple chances but finally made the change at halftime. I assume the final handshake is imminent.
Big Officiating Calls:
*Very little of note in this game. It was over early.
Up Next: Sunday the Steelers head to Paul Brown Stadium to take on the division-leading (10-2) Cincinnati Bengals. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 pm EST.
Reminder: You can hear me on the pregame show on WDVE before every Steelers game and on weekdays on ESPN Pittsburgh 970 and 106.3 FM from 4-7 pm. You can follow me on twitter @DavidMTodd.