The Indianapolis Colts encountered a familiar blackout in the Steel City Sunday night.
History repeated itself from a year ago as the Pittsburgh Steelers took apart the Colts 45-10 at Heinz Field. This rout was actually worse than last season, when the Colts lost 51-34.
Quarterback “Big” Ben Roethlisberger passed for 364 yards and four touchdowns, two thrown to wide receiver Antonio Brown, who also returned a punt for a score. Running back Deangelo Williams ran for 134 yards.
The Steelers humbled the Colts’ 27th-ranked defense in every way imaginable. The Steelers' point total was a season high.
“Just kicked our ass. Period,” Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said.
Hard to believe the Colts actually led 10-6 before the home team started rolling.
But Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was off his game from the start, missing Andre Johnson on what could have been a touchdown pass and then throwing an interception at the goal line after the Steelers had fumbled away the opening kickoff.
A fifth different offensive line starting combination didn’t help matters with five sacks allowed. Outside linebacker James Harrison had three of them in making life miserable for left tackle Joe Reitz, who moved over from right tackle for a second consecutive game due to Anthony Castonzo’s absence with a knee sprain.
Hasselbeck had two interceptions and a lost fumble after a blind-side hit. He exited in the final quarter with a neck and shoulder injury.
“He should be OK,” Pagano said of Hasselbeck.
The 40-year-old quarterback lost for the first time in five starts this season.
“I’m in a little bit of pain,” Hasselbeck said, “but I don’t know anything else other than that.”
He expressed hope that he could return to the lineup Sunday for the injured Andrew Luck, who isn’t expected back for at least two weeks, and more likely three weeks, according to comments Colts owner Jim Irsay made earlier in the day.
Like last year, the Colts couldn’t generate a pass rush on Roethlisberger, who wasn’t sacked and rarely hit. When that happened last year, he set franchise records with six touchdown passes, 522 passing yards and 40 completions.
“Big” Ben didn’t need to keep throwing this time. This game was put away by halftime as the Steelers led 21-10, then added a third-quarter score and had 17 points in the final quarter.
The Colts are 2-11 in career games at Pittsburgh (7-5), and 0-3 in the playoffs.
While it was an awful day for the Colts (6-6), who saw a three-game winning streak come to an ugly end, they’re still tied with the Houston Texans (6-6) atop the AFC South Division. The Texans lost 30-21 at Buffalo earlier in the day.
The Colts play three of their last four regular-season games against division foes. They’ll take a 16-game division win streak into Jacksonville next Sunday. The Texans host defending Super Bowl champion New England.
Then the Colts and Texans meet again on Dec. 20 at Lucas Oil Stadium in what could determine the division title and a playoff berth. The Texans have never won in Indianapolis in 13 trips.
But for this night, it was a sobering reminder of what can happen when the Colts don’t play well against a proven playoff-caliber team with an elite quarterback.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.