Steelers offense gathering steam as stretch looms
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Four touchdown passes were not enough to satisfy Ben Roethlisberger. Neither, apparently, were his 364 yards passing.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback is OK with Sunday night’s 45-10 romp over the Indianapolis Colts. Just don’t mistake OK for satisfied.
“We left points out there and we left yards out there,” Roethlisberger said. “Whether I missed throws, whether guys missed catches, whatever it was. ... We want to be perfect. We want to catch every ball. I want to make every throw. When we don’t do it, it’s frustrating.”
Imagine how the Colts felt after letting Roethlisberger expertly pick them apart once again. A year after setting a franchise record with 522 yards passing and tying a club mark with six scoring throws, Roethlisberger was nearly as sharp as the Steelers (7-5) responded from a sloppy loss against Seattle by dismantling decimated Indianapolis (6-6).
“I just feel a chemistry growing between us on offense,” Roethlisberger said. “Things just seem to be working.”
Antonio Brown caught eight passes for 118 yards and two scores and added a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown in the final minutes, celebrating by jumping on the goal post and sliding down to the delight of his teammates, if not coach Mike Tomlin.
“I didn’t see it, but I’m sure we’ll rehash it and rehash it 1,000 times in the next six days and suck all the life out of it,” Tomlin said.
Martavis Bryant hauled in four passes for 114 yards and a score, and DeAngelo Williams added 134 yards rushing as Pittsburgh shook off a slow start to regain its footing in the crowded AFC playoff picture.
“We have the best quarterback in the NFL,” Brown said. “We have a great offensive line and running back ... We’re doing a great job and getting better each and every week as a team. Today we showed that.”
Indianapolis, not so much. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 169 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions before leaving in the fourth quarter because of neck and shoulder pain. The Colts remain tied with Houston for the lead in the AFC North.
“I give credit to the Steelers,” Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said. “They played well in all three phases.”
Some other things to glean from another scoreboard tilting effort by an offense that has topped 30 points in each of the last four games.
THE DEFENSE RESPONDED, TOO: Tomlin and defensive coordinator Keith Butler tinkered with personnel and schematics after Russell Wilson lit the Steelers up for five touchdown passes last week. Twice in the first quarter the Colts had the ball deep in Pittsburgh territory after a turnover. They came away with all of three points after Hasselbeck threw a pick at the goal line to end one possession and Indianapolis couldn’t muster a first down after the second.
HASSELBECK HASSLED: The 40-year-old veteran had been unbeaten in four starts while filling in for injured Andrew Luck. That run ended abruptly when Roethlisberger went off and Hasselbeck exited in the fourth quarter with neck and shoulder pain. He remained noncommittal about his chances to play next week against Jacksonville, though Pagano said he believed Hasselbeck would be OK. Either way, Hasselbeck knows he needs to be better if the Colts want to stay in the AFC South race until Luck returns.
“I wish I could get some plays back,” Hasselbeck said.
HARRISON CAN STILL BRING IT: Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison picked up three sacks and a forced fumble. The 38-year-old now has 18 multi-sack games in his career, a franchise record. Harrison’s 74.5 career sacks are second-most in team history behind Jason Gildon’s 77.
TOUGH MATCHUP: Pagano tried a little bit of everything to slow down Pittsburgh’s wide receivers or confuse Roethlisberger. Yet it hardly seemed to matter. Roethlisberger didn’t hesitate to throw into double coverage, trusting Brown, Bryant or Markus Wheaton would come down with the ball.
“We tried to help (our defensive backs),” Pagano said. “We’ve been down this road before. We ask a lot of those guys to play man-to-man situations. We tried to mix it up and nothing seemed to work.”
DELIGHTFUL DEANGELO: Pittsburgh’s running game had taken a back seat to Roethlisberger the last two weeks, but Williams posted his second-highest total of the season and is hardly running like a guy on the wrong side of 30.
“It’s all about rhythm and timing,” the 32-year-old said. “The more that they believe in me, the more they put the ball in my grip, the easier it is.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL