Film study: Roethlisberger picked apart the Colts in every way imaginable

Ray Fittipaldo 8 years ago

The most useful quote following Ben Roethlisberger’s record-setting performance against Indianapolis Sunday night came from Colts coach Chuck Pagano because it gave some immediate insight into what Roethlisberger had just accomplished. Minutes after his team was beaten, 51-34, and Roethlisberger threw for 522 yards and six touchdowns, Pagano said: “It didn’t matter what we did. We tried everything. We threw everything we had at them. They picked it all up.”

When I went back and watched the game again this week I wanted to see exactly what Pagano was talking about. The original game plan was to play coverage against Roethlisberger. Pagano spent four seasons in Baltimore and knew full well that blitzing Roethlisberger can be costly because of his ability to elude the rush and improvise big plays.

So early in the game, the Colts rushed three and four and dropped seven or eight into coverage on almost every passing play. When Roethlisberger picked the defense apart on those first two drives for 14 points, the Colts changed tactics and began to blitz. Over the next two quarters, the Colts brought linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks in an attempt to pressure Roethlisberger and to stop the bleeding.

But to no avail. Roethlisberger recognized the pressure and got rid of the ball to receivers who were in rhythm with him in the passing game.

The Steelers had 12 passing plays of 15 yards or more. On seven of them the Colts rushed four and on five of them they brought five or more. Keeping true to form, Roethlisberger burned the Colts bad when they blitzed. The Steelers had three plays of 47 yards or more. The Colts blitzed on two of them.

There really was no answer for Roethlisberger on Sunday.

Here is a breakdown of those 12 plays of 15 yards or more in chronological order.

*On the first, a 19-yard completion to Martavis Bryant, the Colts rushed four and the Steelers did a good job picking up the twists on both sides. It was a clean pocket to throw from and he had plenty of time to stick a throw into tight coverage.

*On the 18-yard touchdown pass to Wheaton to cap the first drive, the Colts rushed four on a straight rush. Miller got some help from Blount to keep Erik Walden from pressuring Roethlisberger. The pocket was clean for Roethlisberger to complete the pass.

*On the second drive, Roethlisberger completed a 26-yard pass to Lance Moore on second-and-17. The Colts rushed four on a straight rush. Once again the pocket was clean and Ben had plenty of time to find Moore open down the seam.

*On the third drive, the Colts finally decided to bring some pressure. On Bryant’s 52-yard catch down the sideline on second-and-10, the Colts rushed six, bringing two linebackers on blitzes. The Steelers kept seven in to block and Roethlisberger had all day to find Bryant in his one-on-one matchup.

*On the fourth drive, on first-and-10, the Colts brought five, bringing Sergio brown on a blitz, which left Will Johnson wide open in the flat for an 18-yard gain.

*A few plays later, on Brown’s 47-yard touchdown catch, once again the Colts rushed four and did not get home. Roethlisberger eluded Arthur Jones, who was diving at his feet, rolled right and found Brown, who cut across the field to get wide open on a scramble drill.

*On the fifth drive, Brown had an 18-yard reception when the Colts rushed five, bringing a linebacker and a cornerback while dropping an OLB into coverage. The Steelers picked it up without any trouble and Roethlisberger found Brown over the middle.

*On the first drive of the second half, on third-and-8 near midfield, the Colts rushed six, bringing a safety and two linebackers. Miller was wide open on a blown coverage for a 52-yard gain because two defensive backs followed Brown across the field.

*On the third drive of the second half on first-and-10, the Colts rushed five and Roethlisberger found Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 20-yard gain, but he fumbled and gave the ball back to the Colts.

On the fourth drive of the second half, Roethlisberger dumped the ball off to Le’Veon Bell when the Colts rushed four for a 17-yard gain.

*On the same drive, on third-and-12, the Colts rushed four and Roethlisberger found Miller for a 15-yard gain. It was another blown coverage or the Colts simply decided not to cover him because they didn’t think he could get a first down on third-and-long.

*On the sixth drive of the second half, the Colts rushed four and Roethlisberger found Brown for an 18-yard gain.

Here are some other observations from the game:

The Steelers had trouble picking up twists in the Houston game, but they bounced back with an almost flawless performance against the Colts, who did not get one sack in Roethlisberger’s 49 drop backs. The pressure they did get came mostly on blitzes. When the rare pressure came it did not matter because Roethlisberger was not hanging onto the ball. He was making good, quick decisions.

Kelvin Beachum and Ramon Foster made the necessary adjustments in the twist games and did a good job as did David DeCastro and Mike Adams, who was making his first start of the season, at right tackle.

*Coach Mike Tomlin mentioned it in his news conference, but there is now way the Colts should have blocked Roethlisberger’s pooch punt near the end of the first half. Beachum gave up an inside rush against Jonathan Newsome. If there was ever a time when he could have overset to the inside, it was there. Who cares if Newsome takes an outside rush on that play? He would have been taking himself out of the play. Roethlisberger gets his punts off quickly. That’s why they call it a quick kick.