2019 Colts Preview: Colts/Steelers, Week 9

Can the Indianapolis Colts get the Pittsburgh Steelers monkey off of their back this Sunday at Heinz Field? Here's everything you need to know about this week's matchup.

2017_ind-pit-brissett

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts (5-2) hit the road to take on the hosting Pittsburgh Steelers (3-4) Sunday at Heinz Field.

The Colts have had a tough go of it against the Steelers historically — Pittsburgh has won all but one of the last seven matchups dating back to 2006 — so the Colts will look to right the ship and set some new momentum.

Indianapolis has won three games in a row, which has put them in first place in the AFC South and in position to tighten their grip on the division in the final half of the regular season.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

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

LAST WEEK

Colts:

  • Won vs. Denver Broncos (2-6), 15-13

Steelers:

  • Won vs. Miami Dolphins (0-7), 27-14 (Monday Night Football)

INJURY UPDATE

Colts:

  • OUT — WR T.Y. Hilton (calf)
  • QUESTIONABLE — CB Pierre Desir (hamstring), S Malik Hooker (knee), DE Justin Houston (calf)

Steelers:

  • OUT — G Ramon Foster (concussion), RB Benny Snell Jr. (knee)
  • DOUBTFUL — RB James Conner (shoulder)
  • QUESTIONABLE — FB Roosevelt Nix (knee)

STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH

  • Injuries On Both Sides, Next Man Up — Between being considered "out" or "doubtful," both teams may be without multiple starters. For the Colts, they are without starting receiver T.Y. Hilton, which puts more of an emphasis on Zach Pascal, Chester Rogers, Parris Campbell, and especially the tight ends. After Deon Cain was a healthy scratch last week, could we see Deon Cain back in the lineup against the Steelers? For the Steelers, if they are without both James Conner and Benny Snell Jr. at running back, then it leaves them with backups Jaylen Samuels and Trey Edmunds in the backfield. Their run game could already be taking a hit without starting guard Ramon Foster and fullback Roosevelt Nix.
  • Learning From Last Week — The Colts' Week 8 matchup with the Denver Broncos looks somewhat similar to this one: average offenses with shallow receiver depth, but quality running backs, who also have high-quality base 3-4 defenses. The Colts and Broncos had a defensive slugfest throughout the game before the Colts came out on top, which could be the case again this week. What have the Colts learned from last week's offensive shortcomings that they may use against the Steelers this week?
  • Lean On Your Strengths — In that type of aforementioned battle, it's best to lean on your strengths. For the Colts, especially with Hilton out, we might see a heavy dose of the run game led by the offensive line and Marlon Mack. However, the Steelers know that, so they may try and make quarterback Jacoby Brissett beat them through the air. On defense, the Colts will both try and smother the run like they've been capable of lately, while also trying to break down the armor that has surrounded Steelers quarterbacks this season. Pittsburgh is the least-sacked team in the league (seven). The Colts have had three games this season with four sacks and two with three sacks, so they could be able to break down that wall.
  • Stop the Cycle, Establish Yourself — The Steelers have had the Colts' numbers for awhile now, and the games haven't always been competitive. While the New England Patriots are more known as the team to get the better of the Colts, 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; the Colts are 2-15 all time in Pittsburgh, with their most recent win there coming in 2008 — then they can get over that elusive obstacle and establish themselves as a legitimate power in the AFC. Colts head coach Frank Reich was asked this week if he was going to do anything with the team speaking on the two teams' history: "That's a great question. I was actually going to do that this morning and at the last minute I decided against it. I decided against it. Obviously, organizationally they have gotten the best – the Steelers have gotten the best of the Colts – for a while here. At the end of the day, it kind of goes against the 1-0 mantra, you know what I mean? I just decided it really doesn't matter. Nothing in the past matters and nothing in the future matters. All that matters is what we do today – really literally today to get ready to play this game, but I did think about it."
  • AFC Playoff Seeding — Both the Colts and Steelers were viewed as serious contenders in the AFC before the season started, and while there's still a lot of football left to be played. only the Colts are in that position currently. The Steelers are still fighting for their postseason lives while the Colts look to stay as close toward the top of the AFC playoff standings as possible. Currently sitting as the No. 2 seed, they'd have a first-round bye and at least one home playoff game if the postseason started today,

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

  • Colts G Quenton Nelson vs. Steelers DL Cameron Heyward — The Colts' hard-nosed guard has a tough test this week against one of the league's top interior defensive linemen, Heyward. He is both a productive run-stopper and pass rusher, as he ranks fourth on the Steelers in tackles (34), and second in sacks (4.5) and tackles for loss (6.5).
  • Colts OT Braden Smith 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' second-year right tackle.
  • Colts DE Justin Houston vs. Steelers OT Alejandro Villanueva — The Steelers' left tackle is a big reason why the team has the least-sacked quarterbacks, allowing just one sack along with two hits and 15 hurries for a total of just 18 pressures so far this season. Houston has been on a tear lately, totaling four sacks and five tackles for loss over the last three games.
  • 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.

PROJECTED WEATHER

REFEREE ASSIGNMENT

BETTING LINE

REGULAR SEASON LEADERS

Colts:

  • Passing — QB Jacoby Brissett (1,590 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Marlon Mack (590 yards)
  • Receiving — WR T.Y. Hilton (360 yards)
  • Touchdowns — WR T.Y. Hilton (5)
  • Tackles — LB Anthony Walker (44)
  • Sacks — DE Justin Houston (5.0
  • Interceptions — CB Pierre Desir, S Clayton Geathers, S Malik Hooker, LB Darius Leonard (1)

Steelers:

  • Passing — QB Mason Rudolph (897 yards)
  • Rushing — RB James Conner (380 yards)
  • Receiving — WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (443 yards)
  • Touchdowns — RB James Conner (6)
  • Tackles — LB Devin Bush (59)
  • Sacks — ED T.J. Watt (6.0)
  • Interceptions — S Minkah Fitzpatrick (3)

COMPARING 2019 STATS

Colts:

  • Total offense — 18th (345.9 YPG)
  • Scoring — 16th (22.6 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 23rd (217.4 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed — Tied-4th (11)
  • Running offense — 11th (128.4 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 10th (45%)
  • Red zone offense — 5th (66.7%)
  • Total defense — 15th (349.4 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 14th (21.6 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 15th (238.1 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-16th (19)
  • Running defense — 20th (111.3 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 16th (39%)
  • Red zone defense — 17th (56.5%)
  • Time of possession — 8th (31:35)
  • Turnover differential — 17th (0)

Steelers:

  • Total offense — 28th (293.3 YPG)
  • Scoring — 20th (21.4 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 26th (205.1 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed — 1st (7)
  • Running offense — 24th (88.1 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 22nd (37%)
  • Red zone offense — 28th (41.2%)
  • Total defense — 10th (336.6 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 13th (20.7 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 13th (233.6 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-6th (24)
  • Running defense — 15th (103.0 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 23rd (44%)
  • Red zone defense — 6th (47.8%)
  • Time of possession — 23rd (28:28)
  • Turnover differential — 2nd (+10)

NOTES AND QUOTES

  • Colts running back Marlon Mack needs one 100-yard rushing performance to tie Alan Ameche (seven) for the sixth-most such games in Colts' franchise history.
  • Colts tight end Jack Doyle needs three first down receptions to pass Coby Fleener (109) for the fourth-most first down receptions by a tight end in franchise history.
  • Colts tight end Eric Ebron needs one receiving touchdown to tie Fleener (17) for the seventh-most receiving touchdowns by a tight end in franchise history.
  • Colts linebacker Darius Leonard needs two tackles to surpass Patrick Willis and Luke Kuechly (202) for the most tackles by a player in their first 20 career games since 2000. Sunday's contest will mark Leonard's 20th career game.
  • Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri needs four field goal attempts to tie Morten Andersen (709) for the most career field goal attempts in NFL history.
  • Reich on if it their upcoming opponent playing on Monday Night Football changes preparation: "Yeah, it does change it in that we're obviously not including the game that they play tonight into the cut-ups that we're studying right now and the tendencies that we're getting. So what we'll do is we take all their games, we just add this one in late and double check it to make sure that they didn't bring any new blitzes that we need to look at or the coverages that they run and the stunts that they ran did it pretty much sync up with everything we've already seen. That's pretty much the only thing – the only little change up."
  • Reich on playing in an environment like Heinz Field: "I mean we talk a little bit. We talk in general, 'Hey, this is like Arrowhead – another great place to play, another good football environment, another hostile environment. Hey, we went to Arrowhead and did a nice job.' So it's that same mindset. Offensively, Jacoby (Brissett) reminded the guys today that we went to Arrowhead and had like no pre-snap penalties and stuff like that. We've got to have that same focus, concentration. So you do make parallels that you can draw from and learn from, yes."
  • Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni on Steelers rookie linebacker Devin Bush and their defense's ability to create turnovers: "Yeah, we know games are won and lost in the turnover battle. That's not just this game. Knowing that we are playing a team that creates a lot of turnovers, it's not just our emphasis this game, it's an emphasis every game that we play. I believe we have the best in the business ball-security coach in our running back coach, Coach (Tom) Rathman. He's unbelievable with the fundamentals he teaches for our ball security. They get a 10-minute meeting on how the opponent that we play creates turnovers each week. We have the turnover circuit where we are protecting the football. It is an emphasis that we really pay a ton of attention to each week regardless of the opponent. Obviously, with their production we will be even more in tune to it this week."
  • Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin on the Colts' offensive line: "They need no endorsement from me. They are a dominant group – particularly that left side. They've got a lot of talent over there – a bunch of first-rounders. They flat get after it. I think they set the pace for the group."

NEXT WEEK

Colts:

  • Miami Dolphins (home)

Steelers:

  • Los Angeles Rams (home)

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