Dec 6, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; aPittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams (34) runs gainst Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker Nate Irving (55)during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 45-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
PITTSBURGH -- Antonio Brown split a double team for a diving 50-yarder.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are showing how much fun the next four weeks might be with a 45-10 pounding of the Colts, whom Roethlisberger has owned the past two meetings with nearly 900 yards and 10 touchdown passes.
Upcoming opponents Cincinnati and Denver should know this -- Roethlisberger is coming off a combined 820 passing yards in the past two games. At 7-5, the Steelers easily have the best offense among the wild-card contenders such as the Jets and Chiefs.
The Colts have an average defense, but the Steelers moved the ball just as well at Seattle, too -- they just didn’t have the scoring to validate the yards.
Brown was especially spunky Sunday with three touchdowns, including a 71-yard punt return score that prompted an unsportsmanlike penalty for “using the goal post as a prop” (official’s words).
Yes, the Steelers could do no wrong on this night.
What it means: Yes, Matt Hasselbeck was throwing the ball, but the Steelers’ secondary had a shutdown performance when the team desperately needed it. The Steelers had to have a steady performance on the back end to renew hope for the stretch run. The insertion of Brandon Boykin into the slot position paid off with an interception off a William Gay tipped pass and a pass deflection in the open field. Overall, the Steelers looked more organized on defense and held Hasselbeck to 161 yards and two interceptions on his first 25 throws. A fourth-and-1 stop in scoring range was particularly impressive, with all five receivers well-covered.
What were they thinking?: Frank Gore's 34-yard reception in the third quarter was a blooper reel for tackling, with at least two Steelers missing Gore in the open field for a big gain. This was a routine dumpoff pass with several Steelers around the ball. It’s not a good look for the defense when its defensive end (Cameron Heyward) has to chase down the running back.
One reason to get excited: This team speed is tremendous. Brown, Bryant and Markus Wheaton all get downfield in a hurry. And Roethlisberger keeps throwing them deep. With all three receivers feeling it, the last four games are going to be wild.
One reason for concern: The return game is a problem. Jacoby Jonesfumbled a kickoff and a punt, prompting his second-half benching for Brown, whom the Steelers would prefer to hold out for health reasons. Wheaton can return kicks but he’s a valuable offensive asset, too. Pittsburgh needs a viable option here.
Fantasy watch: Wheaton is an emerging WR2 option that might still be available on the open market. Pick him up. He has figured something out. Wheaton and Roethlisberger have connected for 251 yards and two scores the past two weeks.
Ouch: Cornerback William Gay entered the NFL's concussion protocol for an injury suffered during the game Sunday night.