So this is what if feels like to have seen a UFO. Or Bigfoot. Or the Flyers win the Stanley Cup.
Here we are over twelve hours later and I still can’t believe what I saw yesterday afternoon actually happened. Is this real life? Is it just fantasy? I have no idea who those guys in bumblebee jerseys were but I’d like to see more of them.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, behind a record setting passing performance from Ben Roethlisberger, outgunned the Indianapolis Colts 51-34. The two teams combined for over a 1,000 yards of total offense. Big Ben became only the second QB in NFL history with 500 passing yards, 6 TD, 0 INT in a game. His 522 yards tied him with Boomer Esiason for fourth most in NFL history, thirty behind Norm Van Brocklin‘s record set back in 1951.
Now those are real records.
Oh and by the way, Ben is now the fourth QB in NFL history to win 100 of his first 150 starts. As media personality and loyal Pittsburgher Dave Damashek tweeted in the aftermath of the game, anybody arguing against Ben’s Hall of Fame credentials at this point is just embarrassing themselves.
I don’t even know where to begin with what happened yesterday. As events unfolded and the suddenly high powered Steeler offense piled up one score after the other, all I could keep thinking, was “Where has this team been?” Then Phil Simms chimed in with a perfectly timed, “I’ve watched this team all year and never seen anything close to this” and I knew I wasn’t alone. Not even in Todd Haley’s wildest Jack and an ‘Arn soaked wet dreams could anybody have expected the kind of offensive output we saw yesterday.
Don’t get me wrong, the Steelers offense has underachieved badly this year. They have an elite QB, elite WR in Antonio Brown, and an elite RB in Le’Veon Bell. They certainly should’ve been scoring way more points than they had been. Obviously we’re not going to be seeing this kind of offensive explosion on a weekly basis but yesterday was certainly closer to what you expect with their level of talent at the skill positions.
I give a ton of credit to rookie Martavis Bryant. He showed flashes last week but this week was truly his coming out party. His size, speed, and athleticism give the Steelers the kind of 1-2 punch they haven’t had since the Young Money posse was out there. He’s an amazing dual threat in that he’s fast enough to give them the big play receiver they haven’t had since losing Mike Wallace while also being tall enough to be the red zone threat they haven’ had since, well, since Plax’s first tenure here. Bryant caught 5 of the 7 balls thrown his way for 83 yards and two scores – he would’ve been well over 100 (and Ben might’ve upended old Norm) if he hadn’t dropped a pass that would’ve went for a big gain early in the third quarter.
Of course, AB was his usual awesome self. The latest in his ever-growing highlight reel was the second of his two touchdown catches. He snagged a fade with one hand and managed to both complete the catch and get both feet down in an impossibly crazy fashion. Even Markus Wheaton, who is decent as a third/slot type receiver sharing time with Lance Moore but I’m fairly certain will be eclipsed in the starting lineup by Bryant in short order, chipped in by catching all five balls thrown his way (one for a TD). Heath Miller also had an outstanding game as the Colts inexplicably kept leaving him wide open allowing him to log the team’s other 100+ yard game (112, 7 catches, 1 TD).
Let’s also talk about the defense. People – myself included – were whining that perhaps it was time for Dick LeBeau to go. Well that master pretty much gave us all one giant cup of STFU yesterday. Yes, it’s not like we totally shut down Andrew Luck but when you’re dealing with one of the top QBs in the league, it’s a matter of containment. And by and large they did a really good job at that. Luck got his ass beaten up yesterday. He was only sacked twice but he paid and paid dearly for each and every throw. Don’t for one second think some of the many mistakes the Indy offense made weren’t because of the relentless pressure LeBeau’s men kept bringing.
James Harrison actually looked like the Deebo of old. Same for Brett Keisel. I don’t know where they found the Fountain of Youth but I hope they have an entire water cooler at Steelers HQ. After a slow start, Jason Worilds has also come on as of late. The secondary of William Gay and Brice McCain have actually proved halfway decent, with Gay contributing a big Pick Six to the cause. The vast majority of Luck’s yardage came on either mismatches on a linebacker (Lawrence Timmons mostly, who can’t run as well as they seem to think he can) or on the Worst Cornerback In Football Cortez Allen. Allen was so bad that by the end of the game, Mike Tomlin sat his worthless ass on the bench and inserted Antwon Blake, who naturally proceeded to make the game sealing INT.
Ike Taylor can’t come back fast enough. Put him at nickel, leave the other two as starters, and send Allen to the glue factory where he belongs.
While this was a magnificent performance by the Steelers, it could’ve been a bit cleaner. Indy actually got within one score (plus 2 point conversion) early in the fourth thanks to a series of miscues by the Black and Gold. Heyward-Bey and Blunt fumbled to give the Colts hope although I can sort of forgive Blunt because he had both hands on the ball in textbook fashion and was just beaten by a better play.
Then there were the penalties. The Steelers were once again highly penalized, at least two of Indy’s drives being directly extended by Pittsburgh infractions. Again, though, not to make excuses but a lot of those penalties were secondary related (illegal contact, hands to the face) as the refs seemed determined to make this game a shoot out by not allowing the corners to so much as breath on the receivers. You know it’s bad when even Simms sarcastically points out making a mean face at a wide out is gonna draw a flag. I’m all for offensive football but you gotta give defenders a CHANCE to do something. If every game was officiated like yesterday’s, the league records would be shattered by mid-season.
Next week the Steelers have another national showcase, their big rematch with the Ravens on Sunday night. At this point, I’ve long since given up trying to predict which Steelers will show up. I honestly believed this game would be a one-sided whuppin’ in favor of Indy. I guess I should’ve had more faith in the Black and Gold.
One thing’s for sure, I’ll never lose faith in Big Ben. Best quarterback in Steeler history? Best quarterback in Steeler history.