Ben Roethlisberger threw for 522 yards and 6 touchdowns on Sunday against the Colts, who entered the game as one of the best defenses statistically in the NFL. The Steelers offense entered as an inconsistent unit looking to get on track. So what did they do differently?
Roethlisberger The Quarterback:
For his entire career, Roethlisberger has been known for his ability to improvise. And yes, he did do that on a play or two against the Colts. Yet Big Ben was so successful on Sunday because of his ability to play from the pocket. His mechanics were sound. He was extremely accurate. He was calm in the pocket and he threw with anticipation. Roethlisberger looked off safeties and worked through his progressions play after play. This was the best game of Roethlisberger’s career, and it was because of his ability to play the position the way it’s supposed to be played.
Not to take anything away from Big Ben, but this might as well have been a 7-on-7 practice for the Steelers offense. The Colts’ pass rush was nonexistent. The Steelers’ offensive line certainly played well, but the Colts were unable to generate anything with a four-man rush. With Robert Mathis out for the season, this will continue to be an issue for the Colts. Indy eventually realized that they couldn’t generate any pressure and brought more blitzes as the game went on. These pressures still did not hit home, and it left their secondary exposed.
Colts cornerback Vontae Davis was injured on Pittsburgh’s second drive, and this definitely hurt Indy’s ability to cover. They played lots of man coverage, the same type of coverage that completely shut down the Bengals a week earlier. However, cornerback Greg Toler struggled to stay with Antonio Brown on Sunday in Pittsburgh, and rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant made his real introduction to the league. Bryant is 6’4” with very good quickness, and he proved to be a handful no matter who was covering him. Bryant finished with 5 receptions for 83 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Nothing to Hide:
Again, there is no need to try and take anything away from Ben Roethlisberger’s unbelievable performance on Sunday. But the Colts didn’t help matters by the fact that they didn’t disguise their coverages. One needs to look no further than two weeks ago against the Browns to see how Roethlisberger struggles to spot late-moving coverages. The Browns disguised 2-man (man coverage underneath with two deep safeties) several times by moving after the snap, and this created indecision on Big Ben’s part. He was a step behind the defense and did not play well as a result. The Colts seldom did anything of this sort on Sunday.
It obviously will be extremely difficult for Roethlisberger to duplicate his performance from Sunday. However, maybe this game will propel Pittsburgh’s offense forward for the remainder of the season. On the other hand, maybe this was just a perfect matchup for Big Ben and the offense. Either way, the Steelers are 5-3 and in the mix for first place in the AFC North.