No matter how the game started, the Pittsburgh Steelers did what they needed to do, and clinched their 24th AFC North title with their win over the Indianapolis Colts.
After a lackluster first half, the Steelers offense came alive in the second half; meanwhile the defense came up with splash plays to help seal the victory.
This was a game that saw several players make plays, and produce in ways that had not been seen in several weeks. As they reach the end of the season, they will need to be at their best if they are looking to make a long playoff run. Here are the three players we believe stood out the most in their victory.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger
There was no player more scrutinized coming into this contest against the Colts, than quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. There was no secret of Roethlisberger's regression in the last three weeks. His arm strength seemed to have diminished, his ability to see the field was questioned, plus his decision-making skills were questionable at times. In the first half of this game, all these worries materialized in a bad way. To put it into perspective, his passer rating in the first have, was a mere 68.4.
In the second half, Roethlisberger seemingly came back to life. He kept composed and slowly started breaking down the Colts defense. He would engineer three touchdown drives and bring his team back from a 24-7 deficit. He finished the game with 342 passing yards and three touchdowns, with a passer rating of 109.4 What made this performance, impressive was his resilience; no matter poor his performance was in the first half, he did not let it define him. Physically, Roethlisberger may be well past his prime; mentally however, he is as strong as they come. To say the least, when Roethlisberger is at his best, the Steelers rarely lose.
Defensive Back Mike Hilton
Hilton continues to be one of the most consistent playmakers on the Steelers roster. In the first half he was arguably their top performer, as he made plays in the backfield and broke up passes. In the second half, as his team started to get stronger, he continued to make big plays; included in the interception late in the contest that should have sealed the game. Regardless of his size, Hilton proved time after time, that he is unafraid to cover bigger receivers. Of all the players in the secondary, he was unquestionably their most reliable one. If there is any case, for Hilton to get big money this off-season, his performance in this game may have sealed the deal for him.
Receiver Juju Smith-Schuster
On the list of the most scrutinized players in the past week, was receiver Juju Smith-Schuster. After suffering an embarrassing Karma-type moment at the hands of Cincinnati Bengals last week, Smith-Schuster's only recourse was to respond with a big game; he did so. His 96 receiving yards were his biggest output of the season, and he proved to be Roethlisberger's most reliable target in their second half comeback. For Steelers to have success in the playoffs, they will need their no. 1 receiver in Smith-Schuster to continue producing in the same way he did against the Colts. This game should serve as the building blocks to raise his game to the next level.