The Colts' offense was purring like a well-oiled machine. Featuring a duo of tight ends, each versatile and dangerous in his own right and an emerging receiver who runs faster than a speeding bullet and has a penchant for the big play. A solid, dependable, power-running game helping to create an ungodly time-of-possession advantage through their first seven games. To top it all off, one of the game's premier quarterbacks who had sliced and diced his way through defenses like he was playing Madden NFL.
Admit it. You, like me, were bracing yourself for a massacre, the likes of which witnessed only in Foxboro.
Well, the Colts' offense did gain 440 yards, Andrew Luck threw for three touchdowns and the Colts' offense put 34 points on the board. Yet, strangely, this was no massacre. Far from it to be honest, it was a complete success for the Steelers.
Their defensive coordinator unleashed Blitzburgh and the only group more surprised than Steelers fans was the Colts' offense.
From the Colts' very first offensive possession, Pittsburgh sent blitzers from every which way and they didn't let up until the final whistle blew. Five, six, sometimes even seven men repeatedly assailed Andrew Luck. There were twists, slants and linebackers flying through A- and B-gaps as though each down was the last one they'd ever play.
Quite a sight to behold for defense-starved Steelers fans. Lawrence Timmons seemed irrepressible blitzing from the inside linebacker position. Jason Worilds had quite possibly his most effective game to date. Even James Harrison jumped into the time machine to occasionally create pressure. A much-maligned linebacker corps, the backbone of the Steelers' pass rush for so long, shined bright once again.
Had the Colts' quarterback been anyone in the NFL other than Andrew Luck, or perhaps Aaron Rodgers, the Steelers would have had four or maybe five sacks on the night. As it was, they had only two because of Luck's downright Roethlisberger-esque play. In any case, the pressure the Steelers dialed up was sufficient to continually choke the pocket, collapse the edge and harass Luck on nearly every drop-back, knocking him to the ground on countless occasions.
The Colts definitely are going to need to issue Luck a new No. 12 jersey because the one from Sunday's game will have some pretty nasty grass stains.
The fruits of the Steelers' harassment were two interceptions (one returned by William Gay for a TD), two sacks, numerous hurries, forced incompletions and the opportunity for the Steelers' offense to bury the Colts using their own big-play sword, something the Black-and-Gold were more than happy to do.
Had it not been for some untimely penalties in the secondary, at least two of which were mysterious in nature considering the ball never got past the line of scrimmage, two or more of the Colts' scoring drives would have ended barely after they had begun.
But the penalties were committed, the Colts offense stayed on the field and the Steelers defense also was susceptible to an old foe; the big play.
The Colts had plays of 45, 52, 21, 27, 28, 39 and 31 yards during Sunday's game. Those 243 yards on 7 plays are examples of the dangers of bringing the heat repeatedly. There are less people in coverage and you're going to get some pretty unfavourable matchups now and then. It also puts more stress on your defensive backs who are often playing man-coverage with little help. When one of those DBs is Cortez Allen, it could be a rough night.
Blitzing is always a gamble. Building your entire defensive game plan around it is a huge gamble. But it was one that paid dividends against the high-flying Colts' offense. On the other hand, if Ben Roethlisberger doesn't throw for such a huge number of yards and the team doesn't score 51 points (is that all?), the Steelers' defense and Dick LeBeau might easily have been the headline story of this game, and not in a good way. However the Steelers' defense applied just enough pressure on Luck to throw off his game at some key points. Those key stops would prove the difference on a night where both quarterbacks were on fire.
Assuming that we still haven't seen the best that this defense has to offer, the question now is where this unit will go from here. The Baltimore Ravens are coming to town in the most anticipated match of the year, and they bring with them an entirely different approach.
Gary Kubiak, the Ravens offensive coordinator, has been employing a successful zone running scheme in Baltimore which features a heavy dose of the outside zone stretch. That just so happens to be the type of running game that has given the Steelers fits in 2014.
It will be interesting to see whether Dick LeBeau decides to build off this recent Blitzburgh success and continue to send the kitchen sink on every drop back or instead opt for a more conservative approach.