INDIANAPOLIS —Margus Hunt is in his first season as a defensive lineman for the Colts, but has previously faced the Pittsburgh Steelers twice a year since 2013 as a member of the AFC North Division's Cincinnati Bengals.
That experience should serve Hunt well today at Lucas Oil Stadium, as he becomes the likely replacement at defensive end for Henry Anderson, who was in the midst of a resurgent 2017 season when he suffered a freak throat injury last week against the Houston Texans and will be lost to season-ending surgery.
Hunt said he feels for his fellow defensive lineman, but knows there's no time to dwell on it. With a talented Steelers offense coming to Lucas Oil Stadium today, the Colts need a dominant performance up front if they want a chance to come away with their second straight victory.
"It's just the adversity you have to deal with in this kind of business," Hunt explained when asked about Anderson's injury and the expectations on him and his fellow defensive linemen. "The play quality is expected to be the same so we'll just have to go out there and do our job. Me and Henry competed a lot. He's obviously a great player. I know I can definitely pick up the slack where he left off and keep playing hard."
Sure, simple effort and toughness is key each and every week, but Hunt also expressed the importance of discipline when playing a team with so many offensive options and an excellent offensive line.
"This is one of those games where you have to play simple, principled football," Hunt said. "They have Le'Veon [Bell], they have Antonio [Brown], they have Big Ben [Roethlisberger]—they're a very explosive offense."
Defensive Coordinator Ted Monachino — also an AFC North veteran after several seasons spent as a defensive coach with the Baltimore Ravens — is the man tasked with scheming to slow down the Steelers, and he is very comfortable with Hunt and his teammates moving forward with Anderson now out.
"I think we've got really good guys for the job," Monachino said. "Margus will go in there and do a nice job, and with Hassan Ridgeway and Grover [Stewart] I think you've got a chance to create some competition there, at the position group."
Hunt is the senior member of the group, with Ridgeway a fourth-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft and Stewart a rookie also fourth-round pick this year. While it appears Hunt will get the first opportunity to earn the starting job moving forward, Monachino is excited to see what each player can do with a shot at more playing time.
"You don't replace Henry but you put another guy in the position and he brings his own set of strengths," Monachino said. "So hopefully Margus can take advantage of the opportunity."
As a backup to this point to the season, Hunt has contributed eight tackles (one for a loss) with a sack and a pass defensed, though he has been disruptive in other ways with seven quarterback hits. He brings obvious size (6 foot 8, 298 pounds) to the defensive end position for the Colts, and today, he'll lean on his experience to try to help anchor a strong defensive effort up front against one of the top teams in the league.
"We've got to go out there and play to our expectations. Our standard," Hunt said. "We know we can play to a very high level so we know it's nothing we haven't already done."