Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passed for 364 yards and four touchdowns, as the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Colts, 45-10, in a dominate performance at Heinz Field before a national audience on Sunday Night Football.
Roethlisberger looked sharp most of the night and torched Indianapolis’ defense for the second time in two seasons (he passed for 522 yards and six touchdowns in a 51-34 victory over the Colts at Heinz Field on October 26, 2014), but the rest of the offense shined as well.
Running back DeAngelo Williams rushed for 134 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. Receiver Antonio Brown caught eight passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns, while fellow wide-outs Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton combined for seven receptions, 164 yards and two touchdowns–including 114 yards by Bryant, who went 68 yards for his score.
The offensive line, down one starter since Week 1 and down two starters since left-tackle Kelvin Beachum tore his ACL on October 18, looked about as cohesive as it has all season, as the Steelers rushed for 158 yards as a team, while Roethlisberger wasn’t sacked once despite attempting 39 passes.
- However, as impressive as the offense looked, the defense may have been even more critical to such a sound and dominant victory.
It looked like it was going to be a long night, when Jacoby Jones, recently claimed off waivers, fumbled the opening kickoff, and the Colts’ recovered at the Pittsburgh 11-yard line. However, three plays later, outside linebacker Jarvis Jones intercepted a pass from quarterback Matt Hasselback at the one-yard line and thwarted the drive. But four plays after Jones rescued the defense, the offense put it back in peril, when Williams fumbled, and the Colts recovered at the Steelers 27. Pittsburgh’s defense held firm once again, and limited Indianapolis to eight yards on three plays, forcing a 35-yard field goal by veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri.
- What could have been a 10-0 or even 14-0 deficit very early in the first quarter was merely three points, as the defense set the tone for the rest of the evening.
After the Steelers answered Vinatieri’s field goal with a 29-yarder by Chris Boswell, the defense came through again on Indianapolis’ next offensive possession. On third and 15, Hasselback’s pass was tipped by cornerback William Gay and intercepted by Brandon Boykin in a diving catch that was confirmed by replay and set Pittsburgh’s offense up at the Colts’ 38. The offense couldn’t fully take advantage and had to settle for another Boswell field goal–this one from 51-yards away–and a 6-3 lead.
The Colts took a 10-6 lead midway through the second quarter on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Hasselback to running back Frank Gore (who also gashed Pittsburgh’s defense on a few rushing plays in the first half).
But just when it looked like it would be a back-and-forth struggle between two AFC teams battling for playoff berths, the Steelers put the peddle to the metal, scoring 39 unanswered points–including two touchdowns on their last two possessions of the first half and a touchdown on their first possession of the second half to take a 28-10 lead and effectively put the game on ice with over 27 minutes left to play.
After giving up five touchdown passes to Russell Wilson in the 39-30 loss at Seattle a week earlier, the Steelers defense held Indianapolis to just 240 yards of total offense, recorded five quarterback sacks–including three by veteran outside linebacker James Harrison–and forced three turnovers.
After Jones almost lost another fumble on a punt return in the second quarter, he was replaced by Brown, who would ultimately close out the scoring late in the fourth quarter with a 71-yard punt return that included a rather bizarre celebration, when he leaped crotch-first onto the goal post before falling to the end zone turf.
The impressive victory improved the Steelers record to 7-5 and moved them up to seventh place in the AFC behind both the Chiefs and Jets, who are also 7-5 but currently hold the two wild card spots based on tiebreakers.
Next up for the Steelers is a trip to Paul Brown Stadium to take on the 10-2 Bengals this Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.