Good, bad & ugly: Steelers 45, Colts 10
Dec. 07, 2015
Just when you thought it was safe to start feeling good about the Colts, the Steelers came along.
A year ago, the defense had just put up ridiculous numbers as the Colts shut out Cincinnati 27-0 for their fifth straight win but the Super Bowl Express got sidetracked by Ben Roethlisberger, who passed for a million yards and a zillion touchdowns in a 51-34 beatdown.
Sunday night, Matt Hasselbeck was looking like the second coming of Earl Morrall and the Colts were riding a three-game win streak, but the might-win-the-AFC-South Hupmobile blew an engine in Pittsburgh as Roethlisberger did his thing again, Antonio Brown did something to a goal post that belonged only on Cinemax and the Steelers reminded the Colts just how far they are from being a credible threat.
Final score: Pittsburgh 45, Indianapolis 10.
And it wasn’t that close.
>> Andrew Luck reportedly will return in time for at least two, possibly three regular-season games. Ian Rapaport of NFL.com reported Colts owner Jim Irsay expects Luck to be back for either Week 15 against Houston or Week 16 at Miami. That game against the Texans in Lucas Oil Stadium could determine the AFC South title.
>> The Colts forced two turnovers in the first three minutes. But on this night, even that turned into something bad.
>> No better place to begin than the beginning. Jacoby Jones fumbles the opening kickoff, giving the Colts the ball at the Pittsburgh 11-yard line. Three plays later, Hasselbeck throws a ridiculous interception to Jarvis Jones at the goal line.
>> On the Steelers’ next possession, DeAngelo Williams fumbles at the Pittsburgh 26. Hasselbeck avoids throwing any passes, thus the Colts settle for a 35-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri.
>> Starting in Pittsburgh territory for the third time in their first five possessions, the Colts actually produce a touchdown as Hasselbeck completes two to Andre Johnson for 44 yards, setting up a nine-yard toss to Gore for a 10-6 lead. Johnson wouldn’t be targeted again. Pittsburgh would score the next 39 points.
>> After Roethlisberger completes six in a row, including a 7-yard toss to Brown, to put the Steelers back into the lead, the Colts naturally respond with a three-and-out. Only Jones fumbles the punt. Colt Anderson, Matt Overton and D’Joun Smith all have clean shots at the recovery, but it somehow winds up in the less-than-sure-hands of Darrius Heyward-Bey. Ninety seconds later, Roethlisberger throws his second touchdown pass, it’s 21-10 at halftime and the Colts have shipped their gift horse to the glue factory.
>> The second half is basically an exhibition of Roethlisberger throwing downfield to receivers the Colts couldn’t cover if they used seven defensive backs, which they actually tried.
>> To punctuate the thrashing, Brown took a punt back 71 yards for the final touchdown and launched himself spread-eagle into the goal-post support, apparently to reward Twitter for paying attention.
>> Every defensive pimple was popped by the Steelers. Vontae Davis gave up his sixth and seventh touchdowns of the year after going all of 2014 without being burned. Greg Toler continued his inexplicable propensity for allowing receivers to get behind him on obvious passing downs and wound up similarly charred. There was absolutely no pass rush. Literally. The Colts finished with no sacks and no quarterback hits. The one time Trent Cole actually got to Roethlisberger, Davis was flagged for holding Brown, wiping out the stop and giving the Steelers another first down.
>> Frank Gore led the Colts in rushing (45) and receiving yards (49), which was nice for him but not so much for the offense. Against a pass defense that had yielded nearly 1,000 yards in its last three games and was shredded by Johnny Manziel, the Colts wide receivers were invisible.
>> Hasselbeck left the game after being injured by his own center. Jonotthan Harrison was bowled into the quarterback by a bull-rushing Cameron Heyward early in the third quarter. Though Hasselbeck returned for a couple of series, he did was sent to the sidelines once and for all after James Harrison’s strip-sack early in the fourth quarter ruined the Colts’ fifth drive that began in Steelers territory. The Colts said Hasselbeck did not return due to issues with his neck and shoulder, which will put Charlie Whitehurst on high alert this week.
>> Guard Hugh Thornton (elbow) joined tackle Anthony Castonzo (knee) on the inactive list, forcing another change in the offensive line. Lance Louis made his first start of the season at right guard, joining Joe Reitz (left tackle) and Denzelle Good (right tackle), who were both making their second career starts at their respective positions.