The best part about tonight's Colts vs. Steelers game from an Indianapolis perspective is that it's now over and done with. The Steelers were at their best, the Colts were at their worst, and the result was a 45-10 rout in Pittsburgh on primetime television.
The game got off to a pretty dismal start as the two teams turned the football over four times in the first quarter, and by the end of the quarter the Steelers held a 6-3 lead. The Colts actually then re-took the lead on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Frank Gore, but from there the Steelers just completely dominated. The Steelers scored touchdowns on four of their next five possessions while Ben Roethlisberger completely caught fire. Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, DeAngelo Williams, and others all had big nights as one of the best offenses in football completely rolled over an overwhelmed Colts defense.
The Colts struggled to cover any of the Steelers receivers, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise and was made worse by some perfect throws by Roethlisberger. The Colts couldn't get any pressure on Roethlisberger whatsoever, which was the biggest issue the unit had tonight and added to the woes in coverage. And, once the pass offense is doing so well, the run game becomes even harder to stop as the defense tries to stop the pass. All in all, what we saw was an average defense that was overwhelmed by one of the NFL's best offenses. The Steelers didn't expose any new weaknesses that we didn't know were there, they just exploited the existing ones.
With all of that said, however, the real story of the Colts' struggles tonight isn't about their defense. If you expected this defense to look like the Steel Curtain against this Steelers offense, you had severely misplaced expectations. No, the defense wasn't good, but no one expected it to be tonight either. Rather, the offensive struggles were much more startling because the Colts couldn't get anything going whatsoever. There was no way that ten points was going to beat an explosive offense in Pittsburgh. None. For all of the talk about how good Matt Hasselbeck was last week, he was equally as bad this week. He completed 16 of 26 passes for 169 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions while also losing a fumble. To cap it all off, he suffered a neck/shoulder injury that sidelined him midway through the fourth quarter, though it's likely that had just as much to do with the score than it did with the injury.
Look, in this day and age of instant analysis on twitter, it's easy to freak out, but calm down and consider things rationally. The Colts faced a very good offense on the road and lost - that shouldn't be a surprise. Their remaining four games are against the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8), Houston Texans (6-6), Miami Dolphins (5-7), and Tennessee Titans (3-9). The Colts will almost certainly be favored in all four of them, and they've won 16 in a row against the AFC South. The Texans have never won in Indianapolis. The Colts have managed to beat the Jaguars and Texans with Matt Hasselbeck this season. Let's keep things in perspective and realize that the Colts are still atop the AFC South and have three games against the division to go (and four winnable games). A loss to the Steelers tonight doesn't mean that the Colts are doomed against those remaining opponents - they don't have quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger or an offense like this. There's still a road to 10-6, and it won't take that many wins to earn a home playoff game with the division title. The Colts will be fine. They'll get Andrew Luck back at some point and likely still make the playoffs, as long as they take care of the games they're supposed to win. Tonight's game wasn't one of them, so while it's popular to overreact and freak out to an ugly primetime loss, it's just one game and a result that isn't overly surprising. To be honest, the most concerning part of tonight's game for Colts fans should be the fact that the Steelers got another win in their march toward a wild card spot, which could lead to a playoff meeting with the Colts. But tonight? It was an ugly loss, yes, but it's not a season-ending one.