INDIANAPOLIS – As much as they would like to forget about it, the Colts have taken a look this week at their last trip to Pittsburgh.
A 51-34 loss to the Steelers last October came just one week after the Colts had pitched a shutout against the Cincinnati Bengals.
It was a defensive performance that allowed Steelers franchise records for passing yards (522) and passing touchdowns (6).
Chuck Pagano wished he didn't have to re-watch that game film, but knew it had to be done.
"They're certainly going to look at it and see if we're doing things a certain way, see if they can get us in the same looks, the same coverage," Pagano said earlier this week.
"Certainly, we would like to make the corrections necessary. You look at the tape this year and see what the common threads that are running through from last year to this year and make the corrections and hopefully avoid giving up the big plays that we gave up."
There are several obvious differences from last year's meeting to this one.
Pittsburgh will not have the dynamic Le'Veon Bell, after the running back went on injured reserve last month.
The Colts will have Robert Mathis rushing the passer, an area where the Indianapolis defense was shut out from a sack standpoint in last year's loss to the Steelers.
A four-quarter game from Vontae Davis could also be in the plans Sunday, after the Pro Bowl corner was injured after 11 snaps in Pittsburgh last year.
And, oh yeah, there's a different quarterback for the Colts.
Matt Hasselbeck will be the Colts starter on Sunday night in Pittsburgh, facing an attacking Steelers defense.
"They blitz probably more than anybody else that we've seen," Hasselbeck says of the "blitzburgh" defense.
"That does create opportunities downfield for big plays. They've given up some of those, but they're a good defense. They're really stout against the run. They're great at pass rushing. You look at their coaching staff, those are guys that used to play there in that defense. Everyone in that building, they know what to do. They know the defense, and they're good at it."
Sunday will mark the fifth start for Hasselbeck this season.
His first significant playing time in Indianapolis has gone about as well as anyone could ask---from an individual, and team, perspective.
Hasselbeck has gone above and beyond the normal backup quarterback duties.
The 40-year-old quarterbacks knows that for now, the team needs him under center and he's fulfilling those responsibilities.
He also knows that his "normal" backup role will arise again, once Andrew Luck returns to health.
"Part of my job is to be (Luck's) biggest supporter and his biggest fan," Hasselbeck says. "Sometimes you've got to work at that. I don't have to work at it. I really am his biggest supporter. I really am his biggest fan. Anything that I can do to help him or to help this team which may help him or help him to help this team, just here to help."
INTERESTING MATCHUPSSteelers wide receivers versus the Colts secondary:Ask Colts players and they will call the Steelers wideout group the best they've seen in 2015. Two of the major differences from last year's meeting with Pittsburgh is the Colts will have Robert Mathis in the pass rush and Vontae Davis is healthy (he left after 11 snaps in last year's 51-34 loss).Colts offensive line versus the Steelers defensive front: Based off the line we saw in Anderson at Training Camp, the unit that is expected to run out there Sunday will look entirely different. It will be the most hostile environment the Colts have seen in 2015, with a Pittsburgh team really needing a victory to maintain pace in a crowded AFC Wild Card picture.QUICK FACTS
- With a win, the Colts would have their longest win streak of the season (four games).
- With a win, Matt Hasselbeck would become the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to win five consecutive starts at the age of 40 or older.
- With two made field goals, Adam Vinatieri would pass Jason Hanson (495) for the third most field goals made of all-time.
- Pittsburgh is the least penalized team in the NFL (64 on the year).
- Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown ranks second in the NFL in receiving yards (1,192) and receptions (85).
- The Steelers are the first team in NFL history to have three different players record a 175-yard receiving game in the same season (Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant). NOTABLE QUOTESColts Head Coach Chuck Pagano
(on the defensive backs staying in coverage when Ben Roethlisberger escapes the pocket):
"It's hard enough covering for two-and-a-half, three seconds and when your pass rush works or your blitz patterns work or whatever and the ball is coming out but now once – they do a great job running the ball, then they got run action on first and second down and then they'll mass protect on third down and then when things break down and he starts to move around sometimes you got to cover six, seven seconds and it's never over until that whistle blows or the ball falls incomplete. So they've got a heck of a challenge and you're talking about (Antonio) Brown who is second in the league in receptions, yards, number six in the league on first downs made with 51, one rushing, 50 receiving. He's first in the league on third down receptions, he's got 27 for 504 yards and an 18.7 average. It's scary. And the other guys (Martavis) Bryant and (Markus) Wheaton both average 19 yards per catch. So get some good rest. Get your 5-hour Energy (laughs)."
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano
(on the play of the Colts linebackers in recent weeks):
"I think they've played well. Specifically last week the pressure that we got, the sacks. D'Qwell (Jackson) has been week-in and week-out as steady as they go making plays. (Jerrell) Freeman has played really well. Run defense, fitting up the pass game, early downs, play-action pass, things like that, third down, pressures, it came at a really good time obviously and hopefully we can keep trending in that direction. Especially with the third down stuff. The pressure this week is going to be obviously very, very important. We're going to have to try to find a way to generate some pass rush and get Ben off the spot and at the same time have somebody sitting there once he does start to extend and move around. We know how dangerous, you know probably the best to ever play the position once he extends plays, we got to have guys there to get him on the ground."
Colts Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck
(on the starting quarterback debate once Andrew Luck returns to health):
"I mean, I know the truth. I know what reality is. This 100 percent Andrew Luck's team. Not only is he the quarterback of the future, he's been the quarterback of the past. He has earned every bit of respect that he gets in this locker room. He has earned it. Nothing has really been given to him. It's his team. I think he and I are clear on that. I try to be very respectful, even when they ask me if there's something that I like in the offense. Before I even speak on it, I'll realize that here shortly it'll be Andrew under center. I don't put anything into those kinds of comments outside the building. I don't even think that would ever be discussed inside this building. It's kind of a nonstarter I think."
Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin
(on the duo of Donte Moncrief and T.Y. Hilton):
"They are a formidable duo, but so are the tight ends in (Coby) Fleener and (Dwayne) Allen. I think that's really what kind of makes it all collectively special is that they have got eligibles to spread the ball around to. Frank Gore has caught I think 27 passes as well. They've got legitimate guys all over the field that are capable of winning and winning in situational football, in one-on-one circumstances. Specifically with Moncrief, I just think that we are all looking at the natural growth and development of a talented young man. We've drafted a lot of receivers over the years here, young guys, and seen them go through that process. I'm sure he's got a great daily example of growth and development and work in T.Y. and I imagine that's been a blueprint for him the last 12 months."
Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin
(on the growth of Antonio Brown):
"Through work. He works hard daily. Like the discussion we were just having, he received a great mentorship in that area from Hines Ward as a young guy. He worked shoulder to shoulder alongside with Hines as a young guy and he in turn learned those work habits and he's in turn passing those work habits on to the guys that come after him whether it's Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant and now Sammie Coates."
Steelers Wide Receiver Antonio Brown
(on wanting his friend T.Y. Hilton to have a good game this weekend):
"(Laughing) Not really. I want to see him do well after I do well. I think we are always competing against each other. I think all in all we want to see each other do well. I think we both want to win for our teams. We know how important it is in the month of December to win games to shape for us a playoff run. I think we just want to be the reason why we win and we both want to have exciting days that people can get excited about in Miami, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and all over the world."