It’s no secret that the Indianapolis Colts have struggled in the past few seasons. Tthe Colts have had trouble with certain teams, few more than the Pittsburgh Steelers as of late.
In their past three meetings, the Steelers have beaten them by a combined 124-51 score from 2014 to 2016. While we’re being honest, the only reason the Colts have that many points is due to Andrew Luck being Andrew Luck, extending plays and throwing three touchdowns between the second and third quarters of the game.
The Colts have scored a total of 17 points without Luck in their past two meetings. Some opponents can be beaten 9-6, but not a team with the firepower the Steelers have. Other than allowing an insane amount of points, the Colts haven’t done much against Pittsburgh under Chuck Pagano.
To be more specific, here are five things the Colts have NOT done against the Steelers under Pagano.
Win Turnover Battle
As you’ll soon see, the Colts have struggled forcing turnovers over the past few seasons. The one thing the Colts have been able to do against the Steelers is force fumbles – four. On the other hand, the Colts still can’t stop turning the ball over themselves.
In their last three meetings the Colts are minus-3 in the turnover battle with Pittsburgh since 2014, which isn’t great within itself, but they have yet to win the turnover battle in any of those three games. This season the Colts are plus-2 in turnover differential, which is a solid improvement from minus-5, which is where the Colts have been the past three seasons.
The Steelers have a great defense and an explosive offense. If the Colts want any shot at winning this Sunday, the turnover battle is a great step in the right direction.
Force an Interception
With all of the negative things you can say about the Colts’ defense, there are a couple things you can’t say when disparaging this unit. First, they are ninth in the league in completion rate allowed, which means one can’t really accuse them of not challenging the catch point. Second, they are right in the middle of the league in interceptions at 15th with seven on the season.
With that you can’t say… that they’re terrible, right? Nowadays, that’s a compliment.
Any way you slice it, this is a much feistier group than in years past. That’s necessary, because another thing the Colts haven’t done under Pagano is force a Ben Roethlisberger interception. Ending Steeler possessions early is vital to the Colts having any chance of a Week 10 victory; getting their first interception in three years would certainly help their case.
Hold running backs under 140 all-purpose yards
Twice it was Le’Veon Bell and once it was even DeAngelo Williams. Regardless of who it was, the Colts’ defense has yet to hold the Steelers’ starting running back under 140 all-purpose yards in any of their last three matchups.
To make matters worse, they are averaging 155 AP/YPG against the Colts’ defense and have allowed no fewer ‘than 90 rushing yards. This could not be a larger point of interest for the Colts this week – stopping the Steelers running backs.
This season, the Colts aren’t great in this department; however, they are still significantly better than last year (yes, another compliment). The additions the Colts made up front have paid off — the team’s defense is 17th in rush yards allowed per game.
They would be nearing the top 10 had they not given up over 120 yards on two rushes to Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon in Weeks 6 and 7 respectively. While this game has disaster written all over it, the Colts could keep it reasonable if they can contain the Steelers’ running backs, both on the ground and receiving out of the backfield.
Keep Antonio Brown out of the end zone
If you’re beginning to think the Steelers have been hitting the Colts from several different directions in their last few meetings, you’d be correct. Antonio Brown completes that trifecta, and offers the knockout blow in this one-sided matchup.
In all three of the games in question, Brown has turned the Colts out to the tune of seven total touchdowns. Additionally, his lowest output has been 91 receiving yards. He has burned the Colts for more than 115 yards in the other two.
As mentioned before the Colts’ actual coverage has been better than years past. However, the big plays have simultaneously killed the Colts, where Brown eats when these two play. I don’t know if the Colts can manage this, but if they can it’ll be some feat.
Sack Ben Roethlisberger
Yes, you heard me right. The Colts haven’t sacked Roethlisberger even once in their last three meetings. The Colts have improved their overall pass rush, but it’s still nothing that Colt fans would say they’re excited about.
Roethlisberger has racked up 108 attempts, yet the Colts can’t get him to the ground and have barely forced any pressure on him either. Here’s another area in which the Colts are nearly square in the middle of the league.
They are tied for 18th with 18 sacks on the season. Ted Monachino is finally beginning to dial up some creative blitzes using Barkevious Mingo, who offers a ton of speed to the OLB group. Jabaal Sheard has really stepped up, most notably with a walk-off sack last week, but he’s been creating pressure on a consistent basis for the defense.
This has to be the game the Colts finally put their paws on Big Ben and don’t let go. Another game without a sack against a near immobile version of Roethlisberger would be a major kick in the pants for this defense. On the other hand, the Colts’ pass rush will have to go up against one of the best offensive lines in the league to get to him.
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