The Pittsburgh Steelers will hope to build on their AFC North lead when they travel to Lucas Oil Stadium to take on the Indianapolis Colts. At 3-6, the Colts are trying to keep their faint playoff hopes alive and prevent widespread organizational changes at season’s end. At first glance, it seems like a mismatch on paper with the Steelers favored by 10 points. However, the Steelers are 5-13 in their last 18 games on the road against teams with losing records. If the Steelers want to hang on to the top seed in the AFC they will have to avoid what some Steeler fans derisively call “The Tomlin Special”.
To say that the Cols have been struggling on offense without Andrew Luck is more than an understatement. Jacoby Brissett was acquired from the New England Patriots just prior to the start of the regular season. He’s played admirably and is coming off his best game as a pro, throwing for 308 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Houston Texans.
The Colts are encouraged by his growth and ability to pick up the system quickly. The game plan will be centered on his ability to use his arm and legs to make plays. The Colts also will try to attack the middle of the field with Jake Doyle who leads the team with 50 catches on the season. T.Y. Hilton is implemented in not only the deep passing game, but will they’ll also try to get him plays in space by running routes in the middle of the field.
In order for that to happen the Colts will need to play better along the offensive line. The Colts have allowed a league high 36 sacks and the Colts have only averaged 3.6 yards per rush, which is 28th in the league.
Keep an eye on: RB Marlon Mack
The rookie from South Florida has four 20 yard runs and is averaging 11 yards per reception. The offense has a little more firepower when he is in the game, especially on third downs.
The Colts defense has been awful all around this season and that is putting it kindly. The Colts have allowed the most points in the league (260), rank 31st in the league in passing yards and total yards allowed, and lost rookie safety Malik Hooker (New Castle) for the season with a torn ACL and MCL a couple of weeks ago. The Colts also have surrendered a league-high ten rushing touchdowns.
The Colts game plan on defense is to try to contain Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, who has torched the Colts in the past. Ben in his last three games against the Colts has thrown for 1,107 yards, 13 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and has not been sacked once. Brown has caught 23 catches for 342 yards and scored 8 total touchdowns (seven receiving, one punt return).
Keep an eye on: DE Jabaal Sheard
Sheard leads the team with 4-1/2 sacks and made the sack on Tom Savage to seal the win last week against the Texans. The Colts will be without their top pass rushing linebacker, John Simon, for the third straight game with a stinger and putting pressure on Roethlisberger will be key to making this game competitive.
The Steelers are coming off their bye and see the importance of getting home field advantage in the postseason, so I do not see them overlooking the Colts on Sunday. I see the Steelers pulling away in the second half for a comfortable victory on the road by the score of 31-17.