INDIANAPOLIS – It took a while for the good news to arrive on Monday.
Andrew Luck entering the concussion protocol was the obvious (extremely unfortunate and untimely) storyline for the Colts going into a short week.
With the clock nearing midnight though on Monday night, the Colts got the news they really needed.
The Oakland Raiders came back to beat the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football.
And with that, the Colts (5-5) had inched closer to the top of the division, with the Texans (6-4) now holding onto a one-game lead with six weeks left in the regular season.
But, as you would expect, Chuck Pagano spent pretty much all of his press conference time this week fielding questions about possible life Thursday without the franchise quarterback.
"We thrive on it," Pagano said of the adversity here again, like the Colts had for more than half of 2015.
"We wouldn't know how to act if everything was perfect. It is what it is, that's football. Our guys will respond."
Scott Tolzien is the expected starter with Luck ruled OUT for Thursday night.
In 10 games with the Colts this season, Tolzien has not taken one snap and has thrown just one pass in a regular season game since 2013.
"I've got the same exposure that you guys got," Pagano said earlier this week about what can be expected from Tolzien.
"He has a limited amount of exposure, but he is a pro. Again, if he has to roll and be the guy, then he will do a great job. He prepares really well every single day."
Question after question came Pagano's way this week about Thursday life without Luck.
As Pagano reminded those in attendance, the game will not be cancelled.
And, frankly, it's a rather big one for the Colts.
In back-to-back losses to the Steelers, the Colts have been outscored 96-44.
Even with Luck not under center Thursday night, that margin should not be forgotten.
"I mean, it's no secret. We have to match that team's physicality," GM Ryan Grigson said earlier this week. "This team's taken us to the woodshed when we've played them the last two times. So here's a chance at home, because we've played them on the road twice, here's a chance at home to match their physicality and show them that we're not going to be pushed around at Lucas Oil (Stadium).
"We have played with the best teams in the NFL, and played physical football for 60 minutes. We've shown we can do that, and we've got to do that to give ourselves a chance Thanksgiving night, in our back yard, at home. So the opportunity there is there again, just like it was last week, like it was up in Lambeau. And, again, it's no different. We've got to treat it, like coach said, every week like it's our last game."
INTERESTING MATCHUPSColts running game versus the Steelers defensive front:With Andrew Luck sidelined in Week 12, the Colts have to get some sort of production from their run game. Pittsburgh's defense isn't a vaunted unit, but they did dial up eight sacks in last week's win over the Browns (the most the Steelers have had in more than a decade). Expect Pittsburgh to load the box early on to force the Colts to beat them through the expected right arm of Scott Tolzien.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger against the Colts defense: The video game numbers Big Ben has put up in the last two meetings against these teams speak for itself: 64-of-88 for 886 yards, 10 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Don't forget the future Hall of Famer hasn't been sacked in either Pittsburgh win over the Colts the last two years. With the injury to Luck, it's flipped onto the defense to do the heavy lifting Thursday, win in the red zone and try to create the occasional short field.
- Since 2007, the Colts have won 10 straight Thursday games. Eight of those wins have come on the road.
- This is the first time the Colts have ever played at home on Thanksgiving.
- T.Y. Hilton is on pace for a career-year with 57 catches for 888 yards and 5 touchdowns through 10 games.
- Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown leads the NFL with 77 catches. Brown is the fastest player in NFL history to reach 600 career catches (96 games).
- Pittsburgh has gone for two on 7 of their 29 touchdowns this season. The Colts have done it just twice in their 27 touchdowns.
- Steelers wide receiver Darius Heyward-Bey (2013) and defensive lineman Ricardo Mathews (2010-13) both spent time with the Colts.
NOTABLE QUOTESColts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on possibly losing Andrew Luck for Thursday's game):
"It's just football. It's life in the National Football League. You'd love to have everybody out there. Won two in a row and now you have to face some more adversity, another obstacle. I hate to sound cliché-ish, as Andrew (Luck) would say, but it is what it is. They're not cancelling the game and so we'll put our best foot forward and our guys will go out and compete their tails off and we'll play for 60 minutes and see what happens."
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on facing the Steelers this week):
"Excellent football team, obviously coming to town, physical (on) both sides of the ball. Good on special teams. Got a bunch of game wreckers, as we all know, so we have a short window to get mentally, physically, emotionally ready for this contest. It's another great opportunity for us to keep moving forward."
Colts Inside Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson(on Thursday games):
"For me, my body feels back to normal probably late Wednesday, early Thursday. The Pittsburgh Steelers, they're going through exactly what we're going through so there's no time to sit up here and, 'Hey, what if this, what if that?' This is the challenge that presents itself. This is a very important game for us, AFC opponent, Thursday night game, you wouldn't want any better challenge than this right here."
Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin(on preparing for the Colts without knowing who is going to start at quarterback):
"I would imagine that their offense is still going to be their offense whether he participates or not. We just prepare for the guy that is there, identify the starter and the guy that we have a lot of footage executing the offense here in 2016 and we will make whatever appropriate speculation in terms of how it might change in terms of Tolzien. But, as we lay a foundation today for our performance, we better acknowledge what their offense looks like and what it looks like being administered by Andrew Luck."
Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin (on the strengths of Scott Tolzien):
"He appears to be a quick decision maker, he has good arm skills, he gets the ball out and makes good and quick decisions. I just watched a couple videos from Green Bay when he played significantly."
Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (on the Colts defense playing better as of late):
"For sure. It reminds me a lot of a Baltimore-esque defense. You have some familiar faces that I have played against for a long time, guys that have done it like Robert Mathis who has done it a year longer than me. I have had many battles with DJ (D'Qwell Jackson) in the middle and Vontae (Davis) I think is as good as it gets in the business and Mike Adams as well. A lot of veteran guys on that defense that we have to be prepared for because they are very good. It is mixing up the looks, doing the base 3-4 then throwing a 4-2 at you and bringing some weak safety pressures. We expect a lot of pressure from them. Obviously you get Robert Mathis and Erik Walden coming off the edges with the typical rush but we expect some big blitzes and we are going to have to be ready to pick them up and identify not only who to block but to get the ball out of your hands to guys running the hot routes. We do see (the 4-2 look) a lot. We've seen it with Baltimore and some other teams when they go into their nickel and dime and go to a 4-2 and you bring different people in. I know they will probably bring (Darius) Butler in to play that nickel. It is definitely something that we have seen before but it doesn't make it any easier."