By Christina Rivers
The Pittsburgh Steelers won’t have time to take a break after handing the Houston Texans a 30-23 come-from-behind loss on Monday night. The Indianapolis Colts are one of the top teams in the NFL this season and will show up at Heinz Field prepared to hand Pittsburgh their fourth loss. With a short week, the Steelers need to correct flaws in their play during the Texans game in order to find success against Andrew Luck and company.
Indianapolis is the real deal with Luck at quarterback as the third-year star continues to improve his game. Matching physical talent with intelligence in reading defenses and finding ways to make plays, the Steelers will be required to put a stingy defense on the field. Indianapolis has protected Luck well, so a typical blitz package isn’t going to be enough to knock him off of his game. Besides being a top-level passer, Luck has the ability to run, keeping defenses honest in playing their positions.
The Steelers defense showed up against the Texans with a little aid in change of personnel. Rookie Daniel McCullers came into the game before halftime and gave the Steelers better run-stopping power, forcing Arian Foster to the outside and keeping Ryan Fitzpatrick’s head on a swivel. Pittsburgh will need an edge rush to keep Luck in the pocket and slow Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw who has a quick burst through the line due to strong offensive blocking. Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons will be kept busy, but has been sharp all season. To keep the Colts offense from putting up big numbers, takeaways and smart defensive decisions will need to be employed.
The Colts are coming off of a 27-0 shutout of the Cincinnati Bengals. Although the Colts don’t have many defensive standouts, head coach Chuck Pagano has put together a team that employs the mindset of getting as many bodies to the ball as possible. Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson had seven tackles against the Bengals.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin recognizes that the Colts are a hot team this season with five straight victories and the ability to score at will. In his Tuesday press conference, Tomlin said, “We have to work to minimize Andrew Luck and what he is able to do with his legs and with his arm, and how he administers the offense. He has a variety of weapons.”
Running backs Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw, both stars with former teams in the NFL, have been putting up huge rushing numbers. Both have over 300 yards rushing despite sharing time. The duo shares nine touchdowns. On top of that, Bradshaw is utilized in the passing game as well, recording six receiving touchdowns.
Luck has several targets that are also performing well. Tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen have put in very productive seasons in 2014, and the pair has eight touchdowns, but Hall of Fame caliber receiver Reggie Wayne isn’t one to be ignored either. T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks round out a formidable group for Luck to target for a full 60 minutes.
The Colts defense has put together 21 sacks in seven games with Bjoern Werner, Erik Walden and Jackson. “They’ve been getting on top of people and really controlling the game from the outset,” said Tomlin. “We can’t afford to start in the manner in which we started (Monday) night and think we will have a chance to be within striking distance based on what has happened with these guys in the past…they are just playing good, collective and are an aggressive team defensively.” Tomlin expects Indianapolis to challenge the Steelers on both sides of the ball, but added, “We need to move forward as a football team and what a better way to do it than versus a real solid opponent like the Colts.”
The Steelers are considered underdogs in this game despite their handling of the Texans. Pittsburgh’s offense didn’t come alive until a critical turnover by the defense. Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount should factor into a solid gameplan and Ben Roethlisberger may have finally found his deep-thread receiver in rookie Martavis Bryant. Bryant is still working to improve, but gives Roethlisberger a target downfield outside of Antonio Brown. Tight end Heath Miller continues to be a viable option on offense, but against the Colts he will most likely be asked to aid in blocking duties with Mike Adams in for Marcus Gilbert who suffered a concussion against Houston.
As for what Tomlin think about Luck? “He’s very, very good,” Tomlin admitted. “He’s got 19 or 20 touchdown passes (and) he’s got a 100.0 quarterback rating…He’s his own unique animal. He’s a very talented football player and one to be reckoned with.”
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Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a reporter and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied exercise physiology and sports psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. Her work can be found on