The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a well timed bye week looking to build on their momentum. They’re healed up for the most part, and actually gained some separation with their division and conference leads. The last eight games on their schedule are favorable. They face just two teams with a winning record, and play five of their last seven games at Heinz Field. The Steelers kick off the second half of the season at Lucas Oil Stadium against the Indianapolis Colts. While it’s a game they should win comfortably, the Steelers shouldn’t, and won’t overlook them. Week 10 Pittsburgh Steelers Preview breaks down what should be the beginning of a Steelers Super Bowl run.
Week 10 Pittsburgh Steelers Preview: Indianapolis Colts
The Steelers are coming off their bye week looking like the most balanced team in the AFC. Their offensive production hasn’t met expectations, but they have put up enough points to win six of eight games. They rank 20th in points, and 10th in yards. The Steelers defense, however, has exceeded all expectations. They rank second in points allowed, fifth in yards surrendered, and are tied for second with 26 sacks. They have a top three secondary that is giving up only 180 yards passing per game. The Steelers have built a team that is Super Bowl capable, one that hasn’t peaked yet.
As the offense gels, it will, and as the defense continues to improve, there’s no telling how dangerous the Steelers could be. But first things first, and that is their first game back against a 3-6 Colts team that is in disarray. How bad are things with that team? Well, their owner just threw their franchise quarterback under the bus by insinuating Andrew Luck is imagining, ok, faking his injury. They released Vontae Davis after he chose to have season ending surgery, and assistant coach Robert Mathis has been charged with OWI. This organization is on the road to challenging the Cleveland Browns for the most dysfunctional franchise award.
News for the Steelers on the injury front is very good. The only two players listed are linebacker James Harrison and safety Mike Mitchell. Harrison was a no go on Wednesday and Thursday, while Mitchell was a limited participant. Harrison is dealing with a back injury and Mitchell, an Achilles tendon. Other than these two, the Steelers appear to be at full strength.
The outlook isn’t as rosy for the Colts. Players who did not participate in practice on Thursday are, defensive tackle Henry Anderson (Throat), outside linebacker John Simon (Neck), and wide receiver Kamar Aiken (Hamstring). An already weakend Colts defense will now be without two of their top three sack leaders, as Simon and Anderson won’t be suiting up for this game. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (Groin) was a limited participant on Thursday.
When The Steelers Have The Ball
The Steelers are ranked 20th in scoring, and the Colts defense is ranked 32nd in points allowed. The Steelers offense has been moving the ball well between the 20’s, but stalls in the redzone. The Colts defense is about as effective as a strainer holding water. As bad as their defense has been, they’ll be without three of their best defenders this Sunday. The Steelers redzone issues come from a lack of execution, the Colts defensive issues come from a lack of talent.
The Steelers spent their bye week getting back to basics on offense, working on timing and rhythm. If history is any indication, they’ll come out strong. The Colts tend to bring out the best in Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. They are set up for big games, because the Colts defense ranks 31st in passing yards, and total yards allowed.
Roethlisberger and Brown should open things up nicely for Le’Veon Bell, who should face little resistance on the ground. The Colts will be missing two of their best run stuffers, giving Bell more opportunity to ply his trade. For the first time in weeks, Bell will be running behind a healthy line, as Marcus Gilbert makes his return. Look for the Steelers to pound on the Colts 31st ranked front seven before testing their young secondary.
When The Steelers Are on Defense
The Steelers defense enters the game ranked second in points, passing yards, and sacks, with 26. They’re in the top five for total yards and rushing yards. Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett has been sacked 32 times, playing behind one of the NFL’s worst lines. Somehow, Marlon Mack has been able to average a little more than four yards per carry behind it. Mack is an explosive runner who make people miss on the second level, but runs with inconsistent power.
Mark’s seen an increased workload the past couple of weeks, and could see more touches than Frank Gore on Sunday. The Steelers will look to shut down the run and make Brissett beat them with his arm. The return of Stephon Tuitt stiffens up the run defense, and frees up Cam Heyward to make more plays. Once the Steelers contain Mack and Gore, they can pin their ears back and go after Brissett.
Brissett is the recipient of the poorest pass protection in the NFL, and faces one of the top pass rushes. Of the Steelers 26 sacks, nine have come from the defensive line, 15 from the linebackers, and two from the secondary. This has the making of a five to six sack performance from the defense, with T.J. Watt putting up another multi-sack game. Brissett tends to focus on the rush when under pressure, instead of his receivers. The defense needs to be in attack mode from the opening snap. The quicker they take all the Colts hope away the better.
The Steelers need to build upon their first half momentum and get off to a quick start. The Colts don’t have much to offer in the way of resistance. They have enough talent to make a game of it if the Steelers allow them to hang around, but that’s not likely. The Colts have brought out the best in the Steelers over the last several years, and that trend should continue. The Steelers will score early and often, winning it going away. Steelers 38 – Colts 13.