The Pittsburgh Steelers outlasted the Indianapolis Colts Sunday in a shootout that nearly had 100 total points scored in four quarters of football. To say there are some incredible statistics following this game might be the understatement of the year. But not every statistic was incredible. Dig deep enough to see what the true 'tale of the tape' was in the outcome of this Week 8 AFC matchup.
Running attack gone stale?
The Steelers have sported a fine ground game in 2014. In fact, they are ranked ninth in the NFL in overall rushing with 127.1 yards per game, but the ground game has struggled recently. Against the Colts, the Steelers rushed for 117 yards but only managed a measly 3.7 yards per carry. For a team that was the best running team in the league through a quarter of the season, they've been slowly falling down in the rankings since their Week 3 win over the Carolina Panthers.
O-Line isn't so bad after all
Ben Roethlisberger had been sacked 20 times leading into the Colts game on Sunday. The offensive line was questioned in terms of their methods as well as their personnel. Both held up in fine fashion on Sunday as the Steelers didn't surrender a sack, a first in 2014, and only allowed one registered quarterback hit. Pretty solid numbers against a pretty solid defense.
Mix-and-Match may just fit
The Steelers deployed a rotation at the inside linebacker position alongside Lawrence Timmons. The three-man rotation of Ryan Shazier, Sean Spence and Vince Williams saw significant snaps against the Colts, and the statistics show the move paid off. The three players in this rotation made 12 combined tackles which made up 22 percent of the team's overall tackle total. Mike Tomlin said he'll stick with the rotation against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night. If it isn't broken, why fix it?
Nothing but chip-shots for Suisham
Shaun Suisham hasn't missed a field goal inside 50 yards in 2014. That streak continued against the Colts as Suisham was only called onto the field to kick extra points. For the first time in 2014, Suisham did not register a field goal attempt, a good problem for the Steelers who tallied seven touchdowns against the Colts Sunday.
Spreading the pigskin
Ben Roethlisberger's statistics have been talked about so much this week I could recite them verbatim. However, the statistic that isn't being discussed is the amount of receivers who are catching passes from Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger completed passes to nine different receivers on Sunday against the Colts, and his ability to spread the ball around to multiple receivers is a main reason for the offense's success in 2014. Sure, Antonio Brown was targeted 13 times, but when Martavis Bryant, Heath Miller and Markus Wheaton are targeted a combined 20 times you never know where the ball is going.
Stretching the field
Ben Roethlisberger's 10.7 yards per attempt was his highest of the season, .3 yards higher than in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers again deployed a philosophy of moving the ball downfield as Roethlisberger completed passes of 47, 49 and 52 yards to three different receivers. The downfield passing game seems to be improving with the addition of rookie Martavis Bryant to the lineup.
Speaking of Martavis Bryant
Bryant is setting an incredible pace, not just for a rookie, but for any wide receiver in the league. In his two games played, he has 12 targets with seven catches. Of those seven catches, he has accumulated 123 yards receiving, three touchdowns, a long catch of 52 yards and an average of 17.6 yards per reception. Why did the Steelers wait so long to insert this kid into the lineup again?
Turnovers are Turnovers
When it looked as if the Steelers would build on their +1 turnover margin, the team suffered two critical fumbles by Darrius Heyward-Bey and LeGarrette Blount. Heyward-Bey's fumble occurred after making a catch and trying to get up and run for more yards after the catch. Blount's fumble was in the red zone. But the Steelers created two turnovers of their own and ended the game even in the turnover department.
Rush the quarterback
The Steelers had their best defensive output of the season against the Colts in terms of putting pressure on the quarterback. Although only credited with two sacks on the official stat sheet, the Steelers harassed Andrew Luck to the tune of seven quarterback hits. It was that pressure that created both a safety and an interception, and it's pressure that will be needed in the second half of the season if the Steelers hope to make the post-season for the first time in two seasons.
Being the best
With Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery departing for new NFL teams this off-season, many thought Antonio Brown couldn't keep up the pace he set for himself in 2013. Leading the league in receptions and second in yardage is a tough act to follow for any receiver. Nonetheless, Brown is doing just that with an entirely new group of wide receivers alongside of him. Brown currently has 60 receptions for 852 yards and seven touchdowns. He's projected to finish the year with 120 catches, 1,704 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. In other words, Brown is on pace to shatter nearly every single-season receiving record in Steelers' history.