Luck outdueled by Roethlisberger as Colts fall
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Andrew Luck kept reloading, kept taking a hit after hit and pulling himself off the Heinz Field turf.
He kept taking yardage by the chunk and kept willing the Indianapolis Colts back into a game their defense kept trying to give away.
One awkward step and it all vanished.
Luck tripped over center Jonotthan Harrison’s feet midway through the fourth quarter and was flagged for intentional grounding.
The ensuing safety gave the Pittsburgh Steelers the momentum for good in a 51-34 loss that ended the Colts’ five-game winning streak.
“Just a bonehead play by me,” Luck said.
One that undid some brilliant work by Luck, who passed for 400 yards and three scores while nearly rallying Indianapolis (5-3) from a 25-point deficit.
Yet he also threw two interceptions — one in which Pittsburgh’s William Gay returned for a touchdown — and couldn’t quite match Ben Roethlisberger on a day the Steelers’ star became the first player in NFL history with two games of at least 500 yards passing.
“We didn’t do much of anything to give ourselves a chance,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.
Particularly on defense. A week after shutting out Cincinnati and limiting the Bengals to 135 yards, the Colts gave up 639 to the Steelers.
“There’s a lot of things that we could have done better,” Indianapolis safety Mike Adams said. “But we left guys open and had a lot of missed tackles. So, we have to get better.”
Roethlisberger set franchise records with 522 yards passing and six touchdowns. His yardage total was the fourth highest in NFL history as the Steelers (5-3) won consecutive games for the first time this season.
Antonio Brown caught 10 passes for 133 yards and two scores. Heath Miller caught seven passes for 112 yards and the clinching TD with 5:14 remaining.
“This is a big turning point for us, 5-3 sounds a lot better than 4-4,” Roethlisberger said. “It puts us back in the thick of some AFC stuff.”
The 907 combined yards passing were the second most, trailing only the 971 yards Detroit and Green Bay put up on Jan. 1, 2012.
Donte Moncrief caught seven passes for 113 yards and a score and T.Y. Hilton grabbed six balls for 155 yards and a touchdown, but the Colts couldn’t quite make it all the way back.
Indianapolis trailed 35-10, but had the ball and 95 yards to go trailing 42-34 midway through the fourth quarter.
Luck, however, clipped Harrison and fell on his backside at the goal line. He flung the ball to the left, but there wasn’t a receiver anywhere close.
Officials awarded the Steelers a safety when they flagged Luck for intentional grounding to extend Pittsburgh’s lead to 44-34.
“I’m not quite sure what happened on the trip,” Luck said. “I should have stayed on my feet.”
The Steelers didn’t sit on the lead, driving deep into Indianapolis territory yet again. Facing fourth-and-1 at the 11, Roethlisberger faked a handoff and moved to his right, where he found Miller in the back of the end zone for his sixth and final touchdown pass.
“I’m not kicking the field goal there and go up by 13 and have these guys put two late touchdowns on the board,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. “We were not letting our foot off the gas.”
The win gave Roethlisberger 100 in his career in his 150th start, joining Tom Brady, Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to reach that milestone in 150 games.
Roethlisberger said he didn’t know earlier in the week, saying he doesn’t keep track. He’ll almost certainly remember this one.
Rarely pressured, Roethlisberger did whatever he wanted. He completed 18 of his first 20 passes, finding players up and down the depth chart. Markus Wheaton, an afterthought following a dazzling performance in the season opener, caught an 18-yard touchdown pass. Rookie Martavis Bryant, buried on the inactive list for the first six weeks, hauled in a remarkably easy 5-yard score.
Brown didn’t even catch a pass until midway through the second quarter, but quickly caught up. His 47-yard touchdown came at the end of a vintage Roethlisberger play as the quarterback evaded pressure, rolled right and found Brown streaking across the field.
The crescendo built even as Luck attempted to counterpunch, with mixed results. Facing a heavy pass rush that sacked him twice and dropped him on numerous other occasions, Luck’s franchise-record sixth straight game of at least 300 yards passing hardly mattered.
“Give credit to their defense for forcing us into some mistakes,” Luck said. “I’m proud of our guys’ fight, but it was a tough one.”
The Steelers flirted with tying the biggest collapse in NFL history before righting themselves — and their season — behind their dynamic leader.
NOTES: Indianapolis CB Vontae Davis (knee) and linebacker Erik Walden (hip flexor) left and did not return. ... The Colts are at the New York Giants next Monday night. ... Indianapolis came in leading the NFL in time of possession, but held the ball just 20:17.
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