Colts at Steelers: What to Watch For
The Indianapolis Colts head out east to face the Pittsburgh Steelers as they hope to build on a three game winning streak on Sunday Night Football.
The Colts (6-5) are hoping for a better result than last year’s debacle against the Steelers (6-5). A 51-34 beatdown gave Ben Roethlisberger the best game of his, or any quarterback’s career. The Colts have managed to put together a pair of impressive come from behind wins, but against a competent veteran QB like Roethlisberger they might not get that kind of chance.
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The current Colts win streak says a lot about not only the team’s resiliency but the quality of their opponents. This is easily the most difficult challenge they’ve faced since the Broncos, and it is made worse by the hot streak the Texans are on. The Colts need a win to stay just a half step ahead of Houston in the division race (something that hasn’t been said in a long time).
This is hardly a must win game for the Colts, they host the Texans in a couple weeks, but it will take the pressure off the team. It also gives Andrew Luck more time to heal and takes away any decisions about rushing him back to the field.
Here’s what to watch for on Sunday night:
- Bad Game Plan. Chuck Pagano and Rob Chudzinski love to run the ball. Unfortunately, they don’t really have a team equipped to do so, especially this week. The Colts are going to be down two starting offensive linemen (LT Anthony Castonzo and RG Hugh Thornton) while facing one of the best run defenses in the league. Yet there will still be power sets that attempt to run right at the Steelers defensive line. If ever there were a week to completely abandon the run, this would be it, but that will never happen under Pagano. The Colts are going to donate downs to the Steelers with bad run plays, just be ready for it.
- Offensive Line Shuffle. We saw the Colts run game disappear last week without Castonzo, and it is only going to get worse without Thornton. Continuity is incredibly important and we’re going to see that further erode this week. Expect another rough game from Denzelle Good and more penalties as the Colts put less talented players on the field. Matt Hasselbeck took his fair share of hits last week and it would be wishful thinking to assume the pass protection won’t break down further this week.
- Pass to Win. We could say this in almost any game, but it is especially true against the Steelers. Their secondary is awful, ranking 19th in efficiency and 30th in passing yards allowed. The only position they are good at defending is running backs coming out of the backfield (which without Ahmad Bradshaw likely won’t be as big a part of the offense). On the heels of big games from T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief, it would be foolish to try to force a run game this Sunday (but I bet Chudzinski will try).
- A cheat code. You could easily make an argument that Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the NFL. Granted he needs Roethlisberger on the field to reach his full potential, but that’s true of most top tier receivers. Brown is averaging seven receptions per game this season and 108 yards. Vontae Davis is sure to be shadowing Brown all day, but that probably won’t be enough. Even if Davis somehow manages to lock Brown down, Greg Toler will be on Martavis Bryant (which means start Bryant in your fantasy league).
Hasselbeck has done a great job of doing enough to keep the Colts in the win column. Sunday will depend heavily on what kind of game plan the team chooses to employ. Run the ball to take the pressure off Hasselbeck, and they’ll lose. Pass early and often and the Colts have a shot to pull off the upset.
That said, I don’t like the team’s chances Sunday night. I doubt Roethlisberger will repeat last year’s performance, but the Steelers have more than enough talent to pick apart the Colts defense.