PITTSBURGH – Not even the recent heroic play of Matt Hasselbeck could lead the Colts to a victory in Pittsburgh.
Playing in a city where the team has won once since 1968, the Colts missed on early opportunities and another big day from Ben Roethlisberger told the story in Sunday's 45-10 loss for the Colts.
Arguably the NFL's most explosive team produced eight plays of at least 20 yards and scored 39 unanswered points in the game's final 34:04.
"They just kicked our ass. Period," Chuck Pagano said after the Colts three-game winning streak came to a close.
"We got beat thoroughly in all three phases."
It was a crazy start to Sunday's Week 13 matchup between two teams in the thick of the AFC playoff race.
Three combined turnovers in the game's first three minutes gave the Colts two short fields, and a possible start they couldn't have dreamed of, especially at a place they've found little success.
The Colts came away with just three points though, something they would look back on after the loss.
"You can't do that," Pagano said of only leading 3-0 after the two forced turnovers.
"We had two short fields. You've got to take advantage of that, playing a team like this, in an environment like this, on the road, you've got to put points on the board and we couldn't get it done."
The Colts did take a 10-6 near the midway point of the second quarter, after a third drive in Pittsburgh territory finally finished with seven points.
From there, the Steelers would hit on chunk play after chunk play with Matt Hasselbeck and the offense struggling to sustain any drives.
Roethlisberger finished Sunday 24-of-39 for 364 yards and four touchdowns. For the second straight season, the Colts were unable to sack/hit the future Hall of Famer (88 total pass attempts).
"We couldn't generate any pass rush," Pagano said after the loss.
"We tried to mix it up. We tried to get to (Roethilsberger) with a four-man rush and play some coverage, some two-deep, some quarters. We've been down this road before and ask a lot of those guys to play in man-to-man situations. We tried to mix it up, but it didn't seem to work."
Offensively, Hasselbeck battled through neck and shoulder injuries, but the offense could never get in sync.
The Colts went through a 42:54 drought on Sunday without a third-down conversion (from the end of the first quarter to the game's final drive), not converting on seven separate occasions.
"It was bad," Hasselbeck said of the Colts ineffectiveness on third down.
"That's what you've got to do to win games. You've got to convert on third down. For the most part, I thought we were in pretty manageable third downs."
Hasselbeck, who left the game late with shoulder/neck injuries, credited the Steelers for blitzing early and then settling into a three-man rush, thus dropping eight into coverage.
Pagano said after the game that he didn't believe Hasselbeck's injuries to be too serious. Hasselbeck offered: "I would hope that I could play," when asked about his availability for next Sunday in Jacksonville.
His presence will be certainly needed as the Colts play back-to-back divisional contests in games that could very well decide the team's playoff fate.
After the loss, Pagano's message to his .500 football team was direct.
"We've got to respond."
Photos from the week 13 contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers