2019 Colts Season Preview: Colts/Steelers, Week 9

2017_1112_PIT_5832

INDIANAPOLIS — It's been tough for the Indianapolis Colts to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in recent years, as Indy has lost six of its last seven matchups in the series.

So could this be the year the Colts get that steel monkey off their back?

The Colts have changed rather drastically since these two teams last played in 2017, and they are much better built to handle whatever Pittsburgh can throw at them. A victory over Ben Roethlisberger & Co. at Heinz Field in Week 9 will go a long way toward earning the Colts some more respect.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Sunday, Nov. 3, at 1 p.m. ET
  • Pittsburgh; Heinz Field
  • TV: CBS

ALL-TIME SERIES

  • Steelers lead, 6-18 (Colts are 0-5 in the playoffs). The Steelers have won six of the last seven games dating back to 2006.
  • Last game — Week 10 of 2017. Steelers won, 20-17.

COACHING STAFF

Colts:

  • HC Frank Reich
  • OC Nick Sirianni
  • DC Matt Eberflus
  • STC Bubba Ventrone

Steelers:

  • HC Mike Tomlin
  • OC Randy Fichtner
  • DC Keith Butler
  • STC Danny Smith

KEY NEW FACES

Colts:

  • DE/LB Ben Banogu
  • WR Parris Campbell
  • WR Devin Funchess
  • DE Justin Houston
  • CB Rock Ya-Sin

Steelers:

  • LB Mark Barron
  • LB Devin Bush Jr.
  • CB Justin Layne
  • CB Steven Nelson
  • WR Donte Moncrief

OTHER SIGNIFICANT CHANGES

Colts:

  • Overall, this was a pretty quiet offseason for the Colts for a change. It was about building onto and shaping the current roster rather than shaking things up or making sweeping changes. Former starting receivers Ryan Grant and Dontrelle Inman both departed in free agency, and veterans Mike Mitchell and Al Woods also were not re-signed by the team. Offensive lineman Matt Slauson retired following a 10-year career.

Steelers:

  • The biggest changes in Pittsburgh this offseason involve who is no longer in town. By parting with running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown, the Steelers did lose two of the best offensive players in the game, but they also rid themselves of the distractions the pair were involved in over the last few years. A couple other underappreciated players no longer with the Steelers are tight end Jesse James, who signed with the Detroit Lions in free agency this offseason, and linebacker L.J. Fort, who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.

EARLY STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH

  • There's Still Talent In Pittsburgh — Two-thirds of "The Killer B's" may be gone from the Steelers in Bell and Brown, but there is still very much talent in their place. For instance, James Conner totaled 1,470 yards and 13 touchdowns in 12 starts in Bell's absence in 2018. JuJu Smith-Schuster led the team in receptions (111) and receiving yards (1,426). And of course, the Steelers still have the quarterback in Roethlisberger who helped Bell and Brown be so productive when they were with the team.
  • Stop the Cycle, Establish Yourself — The Steelers have owned the Colts for awhile now, and the games haven't always been competitive. While the New England Patriots are more known as the team that have the Colts' number, the Steelers could make that claim just as well. If the Colts are able to defeat the Steelers in this matchup (especially on the road) then they can get over that elusive obstacle and establish themselves as a legitimate power in the AFC.
  • AFC Playoff Seeding — Both the Colts and Steelers are viewed as serious contenders in the AFC this season, so this matchup could be important when it comes to jockeying for playoff positioning as the second half of the season gets underway.

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

  • Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Steelers CB Joe Haden — In his later time with the Cleveland Browns, Haden's reputation as one of the NFL's top cornerbacks began to fade, but he has rehabbed it in his two seasons since coming to Pittsburgh. In 2018, he put up his best Pro Football Focus grade (70.9) since 2013 (77.6). One of Hilton's most highlight-worthy plays of his career came against Haden in a Colts-Browns matchup in 2014 (below) in which the two players battled hard all game long.
  • Colts OT Anthony Castonzo vs. Steelers OLB T.J. Watt — The younger brother of perpetual Colts enemy J.J. Watt got much better in his second NFL season last year, totaling 13.0 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles. He poses a quick, long, athletic challenge for the Colts' left tackle.
  • Colts CB Kenny Moore II vs. Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster — Smith-Schuster took a huge leap forward in his second year in 2018, finishing in the top 10 in the league in receptions and yards, also scoring seven touchdowns. He does a lot of his damage from the slot, but also moves outside which makes him a very likely matchup for the Colts' dynamic corner.

BETTING LINE

RETURNING LEADERS

Colts:

  • Passing — QB Andrew Luck (4,593 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Marlon Mack (908 yards)
  • Receiving — WR T.Y. Hilton (1,270 yards)
  • Touchdowns — TE Eric Ebron (14)
  • Tackles — LB Darius Leonard (163)
  • Sacks — DL Denico Autry (9.0)
  • Interceptions — CB Kenny Moore II (3)

Steelers:

  • Passing — QB Ben Roethlisberger (5,129 yards)
  • Rushing — RB James Conner (973 yards)
  • Receiving — WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (1,426 yards)
  • Touchdowns — WR Antonio Brown (15)
  • Tackles — S Sean Davis (80)
  • Sacks — OLB T.J. Watt (13.0)
  • Interceptions — CB Joe Haden (2)

COMPARING 2018 STATS

Colts:

  • Total offense — 7th (386.2 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — 5th (27.1 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 6th (278.8 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed — 1st (18)
  • Running offense — 20th (107.4 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 1st (48.6%)
  • Red zone offense — 5th (67.1%)
  • Total defense — 11th (339.4 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 10th (21.5 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 16th (237.8 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-19th (38)
  • Running defense — 8th (101.6 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 23rd (41%)
  • Red zone defense — 11th (55.1%)
  • Time of possession — 18th (30:05)
  • Turnover differential — Tied-13th (2)

Steelers:

  • Total offense — 4th (403.3 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — Tied-6th (26.8 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 2nd (313.0 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed — 4th (24)
  • Running offense — 31st (90.3 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 8th (44%)
  • Red zone offense — 1st (73.5%)
  • Total defense — 6th (327.2 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — Tied-16th (22.5 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 10th (231.1 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-1st (52)
  • Running defense — 6th (96.1 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 9th (36%)
  • Red zone defense — 16th (59.2%)
  • Time of possession — 9th (31:00)
  • Turnover differential — 28th (-11)

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