The Indianapolis Colts were coming off five straight wins, but they ran into a Steelers squad in need of a big win on Sunday. In a game that yielded more than 900 yards of passing offense, Pittsburgh beat the Colts 51-34 to improve to 5-3 on the season.
The win allowed the Steelers to keep pace with the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals, while the Colts, at 5-3, are still a game up on the Houston Texans in the AFC South.
Here's what we learned from a huge victory for Pittsburgh.
1. The Steelers' offense could be one of the AFC's best.
Starting with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (who had 320 yards passing -- in the first half), the Steelers' offense was clicking on all cylinders Sunday. Roethlisberger had the best game of his career, throwing six touchdowns (the final touchdown on fourth-and-inches). His primary target? Antonio Brown, who had two touchdowns in the second quarter alone. Both he and tight end Heath Miller had over 100 yards receiving. Roethlisberger finished with 522 yards passing, tied for the fourth-most in NFL history, and had an 81.6 percent completion rate. It was his second game with 500+ yards:
He also was the fourth quarterback to reach 100 wins in his first 150 starts, joining Tom Brady, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. For an offense that looked downright pathetic in games against the Ravens, Buccaneers and Browns, Sunday marked an incredible turnaround.
The Steelers' defense performed well, though the Colts' offense made gains in the second half. Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck was hurried and harassed all day, forced into throwing the ball away -- or, in one case, committing a safety through a grounding penalty in the end zone. He still managed 400 yards passing on the day, with Donte Moncrief and T.Y. Hilton picking up a majority of the catches (each had more than 100 yards receiving; Hilton had 155). But the Colts' defense just couldn't get the offense on the field.
2. What happened to the Colts' pass defense?
Last week, the Indianapolis Colts held the Bengals to 1-for-13 on third-down conversions. Entering Week 8, the Colts' pass defense ranked fifth in the NFL. But on Sunday, the Steelers had 24 first downs with 3:40 left in the third quarter. Pittsburgh had more than 600 yards of offense against the Colts before the two-minute warning. Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley devised a game plan that cut through the Colts' defense with ease, relying on Roethlisberger's arm to find soft spots in the coverage.
The Colts forced the Steelers to punt just three times all game and the Steelers had the ball for nearly 40 minutes of game time. There was absolutely no pressure on Roethlisberger, and the Colts seemed unable to either cover the Steelers' wide receivers or tackle running back Le'Veon Bell, who picked up nearly 100 yards on the ground, turning second-and-9 into third-and-2 time and time again.
3. The AFC North is going to have a seriously wild finish.
Every team in the AFC North (Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) is above .500. Cincinnati is 2-0 in the division, but still has to face Pittsburgh (which it will twice, in December). Cleveland beat Pittsburgh two weeks ago. The Ravens got swept by the Bengals, but have beaten both the Steelers and the Browns once. In summary: this division is very weird, and it's going to keep getting weirder. The Steelers play Baltimore at home next week.