Colts vs. Steelers: Pittsburgh Grades, Notes and Analysis
Brown, James Harrison and the rest of the Steelers put on a show, dismantling the ravaged Indianapolis Colts, 45-10, on Sunday Night Football and pushing their record to 7-5 in a crowded AFC wild card playoff picture.
Ben Roethlisberger continued his dominance of the Colts secondary, throwing for 364 yards and four scores on 24 completions, while Brown hauled in eight passes for 118 yards and two scores, even adding a spectacular celebration to cap off his 71-yard punt return for a touchdown to cinch the game.
DeAngelo Williams rushed for 134 yards on just 24 carries, continuing to show that he was a great pickup by Kevin Colbert in the offseason, and Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton added touchdown receptions in the 35-point win.
While the story of the game might be the offensive explosion that the loaded Steelers unit produced, it would be unfair to not tip your cap to the dominance that the Steelers defense displayed.
James Harrison turned back the clock against the Colts, sacking Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst three times, including a strip-sack on Hasselbeck in the fourth quarter that led to a 42-yard field goal from Chris Boswell.
Despite winning by 35 points, the Steelers got off to a rough start as Jacoby Jones fumbled the opening kickoff, giving the Colts great field position at the Steelers' 11-yard line. Three plays later, Jarvis Jones picked off Hasselbeck at the goal line.
Then, just four plays later, Williams put the ball on the turf, which led to a Colts field goal and a 3-0 lead.
The Steelers responded with a 29-yard field goal from Boswell, capping off a 10-play, 69-yard drive highlighted by a 21-yard catch by Darrius Heyward-Bey and a 16-yard catch by Brown.
Following the field goal, the Steelers defense picked off Hasselbeck for the second time in the first quarter, this one a great play by Brandon Boykin after William Gay was able to break up a pass intended for Griff Whalen.
Boswell then booted a 51-yard field goal four plays later to give the Steelers a 6-3 lead.
After trading punts, the Colts finally answered with a four-play, 46-yard drive that resulted in a nine-yard pass from Hasselbeck to Frank Gore, giving the Colts a 10-6 lead.
From there, the Steelers took over.
Brown hauled in a seven-yard touchdown from Roethlisberger for a 14-10 lead.
Wheaton hauled in a 10-yard touchdown pass, giving the Steelers a 21-10 halftime lead.
In the second half, Bryant made a great catch along the right sideline and raced 68 yards for a touchdown, marking the fourth straight game he's reached the end zone.
Brown then found the end zone again, this time on a five-yard scoring strike from Roethlisberger for a 35-10 lead, but the All-Pro receiver wasn't done recording highlights.
Taking over as punt returner after Jones muffed a punt in the second quarter, Brown raced home for a 71-yard punt return to cap off the scoring for Pittsburgh, ending with a celebratory leap onto the goal post that drew a penalty but will likely be the talk of the town for the next few days.
Against Indy, the Steelers simply dominated. There's no ifs, ands or buts about that. The Colts were simply overmatched due to a banged-up roster.
In their last two trips to Heinz Field, the Colts have been outscored 96-44. They won't look forward to making another trip to Pittsburgh anytime soon.
Position Grades for Pittsburgh
Performances like the one Ben Roethlisberger put on Sunday night don't get much better than that.
Roethlisberger finished 24-for-39 for 364 yards and four scores during a game in which the Colts secondary had little chance of slowing down the Steelers.
With a clean pocket and the ability to deploy the hurry-up offense, Roethlisberger was able to dismantle a suspect Colts secondary with ease.
Running Back: A
There is no way DeAngelo Williams is 32 years old. There's just simply no chance based on the performances he keeps putting up in his first season with the Steelers.
Against Indianapolis, Williams rushed for 134 yards on 26 carries. In the third quarter, Williams rolled up 42 yards on just three carries on a drive in which Boswell missed a 37-yard field goal wide right.
The burst, vision and power are on full display nearly every carry that Williams gets. Credit to general manager Kevin Colbert for taking a chance.
Wide Receiver: A+
Antonio Brown can't be covered, Martavis Bryant is a physical freak who is becoming increasingly difficult to cover week after week and it appears that Markus Wheaton has found himself in the good graces of Roethlisberger.
Darrius Heyward-Bey even had a nice game against the Colts.
Brown hauled in eight passes for 118 yards and two scores, Bryant finished with four catches for 114 yards and a touchdown and Wheaton added three catches for 50 yards and one score.
The Steelers offense is tough to stop when Brown and Roethlisberger are clicking, let alone adding Bryant and Wheaton into the equation.
The Colts had no answer for the trio. I'm not sure any team moving forward, other than maybe Denver, will have an answer for the Steelers' explosive trio at receiver.
Tight End: B
With no Heath Miller in this one, Jesse James really stepped up for the Steelers, hauling in three early passes for 30 yards and providing them with a significant matchup problem in the middle of the field.
Not bad for a rookie tight end who couldn't get a hat earlier in the season.
Offensive Line: A
To sum up the Steelers' offensive line performance: domination in all phases.
The big men up front opened up huge holes for Williams in the running game while providing Roethlisberger with ample time and a clean pocket to find Brown, Bryant and Wheaton early and often.
Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva really stood out in this game, doing a great job against Erik Walden, Robert Mathis and the rest of the Colts' pass-rushing options. He used his size, strength and impressive balance against some of the speedy rushers of Indy.
That bodes well moving forward.
Defensive Line: B
At times the Steelers defensive line was dominant, tying up blockers and shutting down the Colts running game.
However, the defensive line struggled quite a bit against a banged-up Colts offensive line, allowing Indy to pick up a few big gains on the ground.
Moving forward, Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Steve McLendon have to be better than they were Sunday night.
James Harrison deserves an A-plus just for his seven-tackle, three-sack performance Sunday night.
Arthur Moats also recorded a garbage-time sack, while Lawrence Timmons, Bud Dupree, Vince Williams and Ryan Shazier had good games a week after struggling against Seattle.
Timmons finished with eight tackles, and Williams finished with seven filling in for the injured Sean Spence while also giving Shazier a break.
Shazier added six tackles and Dupree recorded an early tackle for loss that seemed to set the tone for the Steelers defense.
Jarvis Jones also deserves some big kudos for his leaping interception at the goal line after showing he was blitzing before dropping 10 yards deep to pick off Hasselbeck. He's turning into a solid player despite not putting up huge sack numbers.
Defensive Backs: B
A much, much better performance for the much-maligned Steelers secondary.
In his first game receiving significant playing time, Brandon Boykin recorded a great diving interception off of a tipped pass by William Gay, while Ross Cockrell held his own against T.Y. Hilton and Andre Johnson.
Mike Mitchell didn't have many highlight hits in this one, but he did finish with three tackles in the win.
Will Allen recorded a sack in the first half on a blitz and added three tackles and a tackle for loss.
Special Teams: B
Chris Boswell nailed three of four field goals and didn't miss an extra point, but he did miss a 47-yard field goal in the second half. Luckily, it didn't matter, as the game was already over at that point.
Outside of a productive kicking game, Jacoby Jones is likely out of a job after fumbling the opening kickoff and later muffing a punt. The mistakes forced Mike Tomlin to bench him for Antonio Brown.
That move paid off big time, as Brown returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
A great game plan all around led to the dominating performance from the Steelers on Sunday.
Credit where credit's due: Tomlin, Todd Haley and Keith Butler pulled all the right strings in the blowout win, putting the Steelers right back in a great position in the AFC wild-card picture.
AB Can't Be Stopped
Another week, another dominating performance by the reigning AFC Player of the Month for November.
It's becoming a normal thing for Antonio Brown to shred opposing defenses despite double coverage.
Add in another punt return for a touchdown and Brown might be the best overall player in the game today, not just the best receiver.
For a sixth-round pick just five years ago, Brown is well on his way to Canton.
For Pittsburgh to really reach its goal of a Super Bowl this year, Brown has to continue putting up massive numbers week after week.
Based off of his history, there's no reason to doubt Brown can continue to put up games of eight catches, 118 yards and three touchdowns the rest of the way.
Harrison Turns Back the Clock
Seven tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble from a 37-year-old linebacker who was retired just over a year ago?
James Harrison had a throwback game Sunday against a ravaged Indianapolis offensive line, namely against new left tackle Joe Reitz, who made the switch from right to left tackle due to injuries.
In the process of his three sacks and a force fumble, Harrison joined Greg Lloyd as the only Steelers defenders with 30 or more forced fumbles in their career since 1987, according to Steelers public relations and media manager Dom Rinelli.
Not bad for a guy who was supposed to be on a snap count this year.
Offense Dominates Once Again
When the Steelers offense does that in a single game, they're incredibly hard to beat.
Although it's a far fetched to expect the Steelers offense to do that week after week, with the explosiveness that Pittsburgh has on that side of the ball, there's no telling what type of numbers it can put up each and every week.