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Steelers finding new normal, hitting peak at perfect time

DeAngelo Williams compiled 165 of the Steelers' 522 total yards against the Colts. Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH -- Players sense it.

The season is tilting their way.

After four straight games of at least 450 yards and at least 30 points -- tying an NFL record and setting a franchise mark, respectively -- the Pittsburgh Steelers can consider Sunday's 45-10 dismantling of the Indianapolis Colts an unleashing of frustration for a team that feels it's better than 7-5.

"The only thing really stopping ourselves is when we stop ourselves," guard David DeCastro said.

It was startling how easily the Steelers could get what they wanted from the Colts, who aren't elite defenders but are a respectable team. Double coverage, blitzes, mixing and matching looks -- all of it didn't matter.

Ben Roethlisberger (364 yards, four touchdowns) had everything going, from the fastball to the high-arching deep balls to the touch passes to the sideline. He has arguably the game's best receiver (Antonio Brown), a lethal No. 2 who averages nearly a touchdown per game (Martavis Bryant) and an emerging slot receiver (Markus Wheaton). Roethlisberger has a running back (DeAngelo Williams) who quietly rushed for 134 yards, which were oddly camouflaged by all the splash plays in the passing game.

The Steelers are maximizing their potential at the perfect time. The Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos await, two teams the Steelers could see in the playoffs.

Those teams are locks. The Steelers are hardly that. The New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs are also 7-5.

"We have no room for error right now. We have to embrace it," Wheaton said. "We’re anxious to get back on the field after that one."

Injuries, turnovers and an erratic defense have held the Steelers back at times this season. Sunday marked the first night in a while in which none of those factored. The Steelers will face better quarterback play in the next few weeks, but at least for a night, they showed what happens when the secondary actually covers. Receivers were accounted for downfield. This is still the same defense that let Russell Wilson throw for five touchdowns last week, but perhaps it gets a one-game pass because of the difficulty of playing at Seattle.

That the Steelers say they feel primed for a run shouldn't be discounted. It's actually believable. Roethlisberger will be eager to outshine the three-turnover performance from his last bad game against Cincinnati in Week 8.

"You feel a chemistry growing among all of us," Roethlisberger said about the offense.

The Steelers entered the year with loads of preseason hype, and they've won enough games to keep those hopes alive, though they haven't exactly validated them, either.

Until now.

"The teams that are going to make a race for this thing are the teams that are up right now," guard Ramon Foster said. "We have it. We’re capable of doing it. A lot of times we shoot ourselves in the foot, a turnover here, not finishing [a] drive here, a drop here, a sack here. Those are the things that are setting us back. We can’t afford to do that anymore."