If your QB throws for 400 yards and 3 touchdowns, with a turnover differential of 0, your bet would be a Win. Get real: No one expected the Steelers to hold the Colts under 24 points. If the Steelers were meant to win this one, it would be with a high-scoring, shootout game. And it was: 1087 yards, 85 points and 9 TD passes came along with 15 penalties and 4 turnovers, being the best performance all-around for the Steelers. A couple of Cornerbacks were the weak links (Allen for the Steelers, Davis for the Colts), while both QBs were able to move the football all over the field.
After the Colts defense allowed opponents to convert only 4-of-41 3rd downs (9.8%) in their previous four games, the Steelers converted 61% (8/13) of them while scoring on 6 drives, holding on to the football for almost 40 minutes. Hitting Luck all day long, he missed 19 passes (completing 57%) and threw two interceptions: a pick-six by Gay, and a late toss to the endzone intercepted by the Steelers 5th CB (Taylor, Allen, Gay, McCain before him).
Offense: How about spreading the football? Coach Haley and Ben were able to spread the football to 9 players, 8 of them contributing one way or another (3rd down conversions, TD receptions, lone exception of Heyward-Bey, with only 1 catch and a fumble).
- TDs, not FGs: The Steelers had 11 offensive drives, 6 resulting in touchdowns, 3 others ending in Colts territory (2 punts, 1 fumble), and only 2 drives stalled in Steelers territory: one 3 & out and a fumble. This is how it looked: TD, TD, TD, TD, blocked punt (IND 34), TD, 3 & out-punt, fumble, fumble (IND 5), TD, punt.
- A total of 639 yards on offense lifted the Steelers game. Credit to Coach Haley, who managed to have his offense hold the football for almost 40 minutes, scoring TDs instead of FGs while sustaining long drives kept the scoreboard high, without lending the football to Luck and the Colts.
- Ben at his best: 522 yards, 6 TDs, spreading the ball to 9 receivers, 80% completions (40-49), no sacks and no interceptions. 14 times in NFL history a QB has passed for more than 500 yards. Roethlisberger is the only one to appear twice on that list (and won both games). Credit his playcalling, quick release and ability to avoid tackles.
- Antonio Brown had an average game for his standard: 10 receptions, 130 yards, 2 TDs. Stood out as a critical situational playmaker, as usual. Early MVP candidate?
- Bryant and Wheaton have become a growing force for this team. Bryant can stretch the field, and that will benefit Brown. One of them will draw double coverage, and benefit the other and Wheaton. Also, great contribution from Lance Moore, for the 2nd game in a row. Keep an eye on Moore and Wheaton against the Ravens: If we ignite our offense, Brown and Bryant will get most of their defensive attention.
- Heath Miller had his best performance since his injury a couple of seasons ago. That catch and run for 49 yards… epic, for several reasons. He proved himself that he can run half the football field! No one was expecting a record-breaking speed, but that seemed to be a slow motion play.
- Saving the best for the last: Offensive line had a monster game, by far, their best this season. Keeping Ben clean was critical to win this game and make him a 500+ yd passer, once again. Barely pressured, Ben was able to take his reads and throw without feeling the heat. All 5 starters understood Indianapolis’ pressure, and were able to pick them up. Adams stood out, and could be on his way to stay with the first team. Gilbert can, could, should, must… be the one with the short end.
Defense: LeBeau strikes back. Excelled on playcalling to get to Luck, who was a human-piñata for this Defense.
- Playing with an early big lead let LeBeau be aggressive: Since the 2nd quarter, the Colts almost forgot to run the football, even when the Steelers played their base-defense close-to-none. Easily predictable passing situations meant more blitzes, 5 men pressures (one of them coming from the LB or DB units) and an avoiding big plays scheme, which worked. Slow down a high – octane offense is only possible if you keep getting on the opposing QB. Credit to Coach LeBeau for taking this approach.
- Our DL was not really tested against the run, giving up only 63 yards rushing (26 of them on Luck’s scarmbles). This unit played mostly with Heyward and Kiesel, with Thomas, Tuitt and McCullers having also playing time. Most of the pressure was generated by our Defensive Linemen, and a couple of sacks by this unit were negated by penalties (sounds familiar?). Cam Thomas can be the odd-man out from this unit as the season evolves.
- All 6 LBs with extended playtime had hits either on Luck or one of his receivers: Shazier, Timmons, Williams, Harrison, Worilds an Moats played vintage Steelers football, while our defense aligned with 7 men in the line of scrimmage, confusing the Colts offensive line and resulting in pressure all game on Luck. Credit Coach LeBeau for it. Yes, Luck moved the football and scored, but also was picked, hurried, hit, stopped and forced into mistakes.
- Vince Williams played on 36 snaps, while Spence in 1. Is he the new backup after Shazier / Timmons. Williams has intensity, and this game was suited for him.
- Luck’s 3 TD passes: First one, over Timmons (who got no help from Polamalu), 2nd and 3rd ones over Cortez Allen (last one, with late help from Polamalu). Even while being the 3rd CB, Cortez Allen still is the weak link on this defense and performed as the most targeted DB, with Luck having success throwing on his side. Can Gay-McCain-Blake become a CB package on its way for next Sunday? If so, what will happen with C Allen’s recent contract? Makes us remember the season in which Coach Cowher benched Ike, due to poor performance, making him rebound as a shutdown cornerback.
- Had anyone really thought that Ike’s absence could create such a problem on our pass defense? As his return timetable is still unclear, his comeback is something on which Coach LeBeau will be benefited.
- Polamalu was out of spot, once again, frequently. Is his lack of chemistry with the rest of Steelers Defensive backs showing up? He isn’t familiar with them, but most important: some of them are not used to play with an over-aggressive SS. He has been the main victim of Ike’s absence. It was nice to see him get a sack.
- Mike Mitchell continues to play as a center fielder, without fielding the football. Even though he’s not a ball hawk, his conservative approach (read both bullets above) can be a consequence of his lack of understanding of his SS teammate.
- Giving up 34 points will not make your winning chances improve, unles you have
Next up: Ravens, at Jets, at Titans. Even though a 3-0 is possible and would be great (to make it an 8-3 record going into the Bye week), a 2-1 can make this team a stretch contender at 7-4.
Here’s hoping to see a great game vs Baltimore, while repeating the dose on them with a consistently aggressive play calling on both sides of the ball: Flacco being pressured and hit frequently, and their pass defense being challenged by Coach Haley. Beware of their long passes looking for a mistake (coverage error, penalty). They usually have success against us on those plays (most of the time, getting a referee’s call).
After that game, I see a couple of very beatable opponents, which could boost our record (and playoff chances).
- Looking for Ben’s HOF credentials? Add this to his already impressive resume: Two 500+ yard games (only QB to feature that), Six 400+ yard games, 4th QB in NFL history to win 100 of his first 150 games.
- I’ll say this weekly: if this team somehow ends with 10 or more wins, Antonio Brown will be in MVP consideration late in the season.
- Is Gilbert now a backup? Welcome back, Mike Adams.
- So many times has Ben kicked from a long shotgun formation, that someone has figured it out.
- Going for it on that last 4th and 1, instead of kicking a FG, was a wise move. That play had 4 options, and Ben made a good read on them.
- How many pro-bowlers do the Steelers have on its roster?
- Was that Kiesel interception a Season turnaround?
- Wonder if Andrew Luck was ever hit like that before. Nice to see the Steelers give him a welcome to the NFL.
- Nice to read Coach Cowher praising Big Ben. Was he trying to motivate the Steelers with his comments 3 weeks ago? If so, it worked. Tell him we need that this week too!
- Harrison and Kiesel looked a couple of years younger. Is Harrison making a case to keep his roster spot once J Jones is back (probably after the Bye).
- Colbert should be wondering if there’s still a chance to have a mulligan over Gilbert and Allen’s contracts… or working out the cost of cutting them?
- Has there ever been a slower 50 yard completion than Miller’s?
- Why hadn’t Martavis Bryant been activated earlier this season?
- Wheaton finally scored, while this game gave him a confidence boost (and a boost too to Haley’s and Ben’s confidence in him).
- 3 long balls to Bryant per game = 1 big play? Reception or pass interference calls can be on their way the next couple of games. Watch out!
- Memo to coach Haley: Impressive performance. Still, redemption game comes next week.
- Memo #2 to coach Haley: the Ravens will be without their top CB, don’t hesitate going deep on them and spreading the football over the field.
By the Numbers:
1st game this season where Roethlisberger isn’t sacked.
2 500 yard games for Ben Roethlisberger (only player in NFL history to do so).
7 Straight games with more than 100 yards from scrimmage for Le’veon Bell.
9 Steelers players caught a pass.
23 Antonio Brown consecutive games with at least 5 receptions-50 yard games, NFL record & counting.
28 points scored in the 2nd quarter by the Steelers against Indy, following a 24 point- 2nd quarter against Houston.
39:43 Steelers time of possession against league leader in this category.
73 Penalties for the Steelers this season, (Leading the NFL).
1087 yards of total offense by both teams.