While the outcome wasn’t what Colts’ fans nearly expected, as the team fell 34-51 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s time to recognize the top performers in last weekend’s game at Heinz Field. These are players that went above and beyond their positional requirements, albeit in a losing effort:
Oct 26, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) runs the ball past Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Vince Williams (98) during the first half of their game at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Luck: Yes, the safety and 2 interceptions were unfortunate, but for 3 quarters, the Colts’ star young quarterback had his team hanging right there with Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers, only trailing 34-42 at the end of the 3rd quarter. Roethlisberger had been tearing up the Colts’ defense all afternoon, as he was on his way to his eventual 500+ passing yards and 6 touchdowns (an all-time NFL historical passing day).
Yet, QB Andrew Luck, always one for comebacks, had his team right there. He was 26 for 45 for 400 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. Sadly, Luck and the Colts’ comeback attempt came up short, but for a stretch there, Luck was trading punches with Big Ben, blow for blow…in what looked like had the makings of a heavyweight fight.
T.Y. Hilton: Since Week 6 against Houston, T.Y. Hilton has caught fire in recent weeks, as he’s performing like one of the league’s best wide receivers over his past 3 games. He torched the Pittsburgh Steelers for 6 receptions for 155 receiving yards (25.8 ypr) and 1 touchdown. Self nick-named, “The Ghost”, Hilton is dangerously elusive and had another dominant performance against the Steelers, who really had no answer for him in coverage.
Donte Moncrief: With Reggie Wayne out of the lineup, the Colts’ rookie wide receiver made the most of his opportunity, finishing with 7 receptions for 113 receiving yards and 1 touchdown. His day included a 52-yard long reception from QB Andrew Luck, showing his deep speed and explosive ability. In limited opportunity, Moncrief has looked good this season, real good. With Hakeem Nicks failing to show much separation or burst, Moncrief could be another big-play weapon for QB Andrew Luck and the offense moving forward in an expanded role.
Pat McAfee: 3 punts for 153 yards and a 51.0 yards per punt average. Even the tougher elements at Heinz Field, couldn’t slow “The Boomstick” down.
It’s hard to single out anyone because the defense was just all together brutal as a unit on Sunday, so I’ll start with:
Oct 26, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller (83) catches an eleven yard touchdown pass against the Indianapolis Colts during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 51-34. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Secondary: Their #1 cornerback, Vontae Davis, was banged up in-game, but the Colts’ secondary was getting destroyed even before that. Ben Roethlisberger finished his day with 522 passing yards, 4th most all-time in NFL history. He completed 40 of 49 passes for 81.6%. Last, but ceratinly not least, he threw for 6 touchdowns. It was complete and utter destruction of the Colts’ secondary as a whole. A unit that over the past couple of weeks had been truly dominant. However, they certainly weren’t helped by…
The Pass Rush: 0 sacks. Entering the afternoon, in the previous 5 games, all of which were wins, the Colts’ pass rush had 20 total sacks which means they were averaging 4.0 sacks a game during their winning streak. They laid a goose egg against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. If you can’t cover and rush the passer in today’s NFL, your defense is going to be in for a long-day, especially against an elite NFL quarterback like Roethlisberger. That certainly proved to be the case this past Sunday.
Note: The Colts defense has generally been strong as a unit this season, but it’s still a group that lacks playmakers with Robert Mathis out of the lineup. They are only as good as the sum of their parts, and if each player isn’t holding up their weight, then it’s a unit that can also quickly fall apart just as we saw on Sunday. To be blunt, the defense simply lacks elite defensive playmakers that can mask some of the group’s deficiencies in big moments consistently.