Not only did the Colts hand the Steelers a big loss in front of a national audience, they dealt them a blow to their playoff hopes. The playoff seeding for the AFC heading into Week 13 of the NFL season has the Colts first at 11-0 followed by the Broncos at 9-2 and Cincinnati at 8-3. The two wildcard teams would be the Jaguars (7-4) and the Chargers (7-4) based on tie-breakers. To make matters worse, the Steelers have to host the Bengals working off of a short week following last night's loss.
The Colts rush defense did such a good job of stifling the Steelers' rushing attack, the two longest runs of the first half by Pittsburgh were by fullback Dan Kreider (7 yards) and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (5 yards). With Duce Staley healthy again, the Steelers had hoped to chew up real estate and the clock by rotating him, Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker into the game. The availability of fresh legs and different running styles had the potential to wear down the Colts. But by the end of the game, had it not been for a Parker 24-yard jaunt on the final, meaningless possession by Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger would have led the team in rushing with 21 yards. Staley managed just six yards on three carries (2.0 yds per carry) and Bettis just nine yards on six carries (1.5 ypc). Parker finished with 43 yards, but up until his 24-yard run he had just 19 yards on 11 carries (1.7 ypc).
Quiet night for Ward
Despite an early touchdown reception, Pro Bowl wide receiver Hines Ward was kept in check by the Colts secondary, along with the rest of the Steelers receiving corps. Ward finished the night with three catches for 28 yards and a touchdown. The leading receiver was Cedrick Wilson who had three catches for 44 yards, including one for 35 yards. The Colts defense finished the night holding every Steelers running back and receiver to 45 yards or less.
Kudos to the 12th Man
The more than 57,000 fans in the RCA Dome were so loud that Steelers right guard Kendall Smmons jumped three times in the first half, backing his team up 5 yards each time.
A bit odd...
After saying all week that you have to be patient against a team like the Colts, Steelers head coach Bill Cowher called for an onsides kick to open the second half. It was a risky move that blew up in his face as the Colts took advantage of the short field and marched 37 yards to widen their lead to 16 points. With his offense sputtering, why would Cowher take that huge risk? A bit of desperation, no doubt, after watching his team's offense sputter during the first half.
"Our offense makes teams get out of character," Colts head coach Tony Dungy remarked.
Keeping things in perspective
The Colts are just the 11th team in NFL history to start a season 11-0. But Dungy, us usual, maintained a cool head and level outlook about his team and where they stand despite their 11-0 record.
"We're going to get in bigger and bigger games and we have to play with the same intensity but we can't have all the penalties," Dungy said. "If we can eliminate that, I think we have a chance to be very good."
Marvin on the move
With his 51st career 100-yard game last night, Marvin Harrison began closing in on Jerry Rice's record of 76 for his career. Harrison moved passed former Jets receiver Don Maynard, who had 50.
Mathis tied for lead
Defensive end Robert Mathis got his 11th sack of the season, putting him in a tie for the league lead with Derrick Burgess of the Raiders. Montae Reagor and Josh Thomas had the other two Indianapolis sacks during the game.