By Christina Rivers

The Pittsburgh Steelers were coming off of a much-needed win against the AFC South Houston Texans only to face the Indianapolis Colts, who were in the process of attempting to go for their sixth-straight win at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon. Expected to stumble against Andrew Luck and his multiple-target offense, the Steelers did the incredible despite errors that were costly – win in an outstanding fashion. With many detractors this season, the Steelers made a statement in week eight about the type of team they can be, and should be.

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Quarterback

After hearing how Ben Roethlisberger should no longer be considered an elite quarterback in the league week after week this season, you would have thought that Roethlisberger himself would have simply balked at the task of leading his offense against the Colts. Instead, Roethlisberger gave the pundits something else to talk about by putting up a franchise record 522 passing yards for six touchdowns without throwing a single interception. He completed 40-of-49 passes attempted. Roethlisberger’s yardage total was the fourth-highest in NFL history and he became the first player to go over 500 yards passing twice as the Steelers won consecutive games for the first time this season. Let the detractors continue to talk, but Roethlisberger led this Pittsburgh team to a solid win over a top-five competitor, and did it with style and poise.

Grade: A

Offense

The Steelers needed a strong offensive line and exceptional execution by the other members of the offense to compete against the Colts and Luck, who had drawn down early on their opponents. Although the Colts scored first with a field goal, the Steelers offense immediately came back time and time again to put points on the scoreboard. Roethlisberger spread the offense, finding ten different targets to pass to. The ability to move things around came about due to a strong performance by the offensive line who kept penalties and mistakes to a minimum while offering Roethlisberger a decent pocket to navigate in.

Antonio Brown wasn’t the first, second or even the third receiver utilized in the game, but when he was targeted, he was able to catch 10 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns. For the second week in a row, rookie Martavis Bryant exhibited deep-catch skills and added five receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Only tight end Heath Miller had a longer reception than Bryant, securing a 49-yard catch that earned a new set of downs.

Grade: A-

Defense

The Steelers had some mistakes on defense, as did the offense, but they were able to overcome penalty yards by creating opportunities to get the offense back on the field. By harrying Andrew Luck play after play, the defense brought a new level of intensity to this squad for the first time in 2014. Cortez Allen was beaten handily several times, allowing Luck to find T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief for 45- and 52-yard passes and keep the Colts in the game. Jason Worilds, James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, Brett Keisel and Troy Polamalu looked completely re-energized this week as they dominated the run defense with the aid of Daniel McCullers and Cam Heyward at nose tackle.

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Pittsburgh held Ahmad Bradshaw to just six runs for 35 yards even though he logged a touchdown, shutting down the running game and forcing Luck to use the pass to beat them. In the fourth quarter the Steelers benefitted from an Antwon Blake interception and a crucial safety that garnered two points on the scoreboard and a free kick from Indianapolis.

Grade: B

Special Teams

The special teams unit continues to struggle in the return game. The Steelers were only able to garner 16 return yards on punts and 15 yards on kickoffs. Using Roethlisberger as a punter was a silly decision by the coaching staff that could have had disastrous results after being blocked and then moved downfield had the defense not forced Luck to take a safety. Brad Wing was only forced to punt once in the entire game, which speaks to the effectiveness of the offense. Shaun Suisham continues to be the brightest point of the Steelers’ special teams, successfully kicking seven-of-seven PATs.

This unit could benefit from figuring out what player will be their most-effective kick and punt returner, but they continue to shift the responsibility with mixed results.

Grade: B

Summary

The Steelers answered in big ways when momentum shifted against them by making plays that counted at critical moments. Improvement in their red zone efficiency was key. Pittsburgh went five-for-six in the red zone and weren’t afraid to go for it. LeGarrette Blount’s fumble inside the 20-yard line was a costly error, but the team compensated effectively. Le’Veon Bell had another good outing this week. Coaches deserve to be questioned about why they allowed Roethlisberger to kick a pooch punt instead of allowing Suisham to kick a field goal and put an extra three points on the scoreboard. Overall, the performance of the Steelers as a team earned a solid B+

For more Steelers news and updates, visit Steelers Central.

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Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a reporter and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied exercise physiology and sports psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. Her work can be found on
Examiner.com.