Friday, September 23, 2011

Steelers Game Day 3 - @ Indianapolis Colts

Steelers and Colts. When you looked at the schedule in the preseason and you saw this game on prime time Sunday Night Football you got really excited because this was going to be a prime time matchup between two teams that were destined to win their divisions and have two of the best quarterbacks in the league going at it. It was perfect, in the preseason.

You then fast forward to present time and the Colts are without Peyton Manning and are 0-2 after dropping games to the Texans and Browns and the Steelers are trying to pick themselves up still after the beat down they got on the opening week at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens. Isn’t it strange how opinions and expectations can turn in just a month?

It is no secret that the Steelers have a pretty soft schedule this season. They get to play the NFC West in their cross over and also will play the AFC West teams who have shown to not really be “up to snuff” as Mike Tomlin would put it. Ravens loss included this is a playoff team and that one loss didn’t change my opinion on that. After this game the Steelers have games against the Texans, Titans and Jaguars and I can honestly say I can see this team being 4-2 or better going into a week seven game when they have to travel to Arizona. That being said before the season the Colts were one of those games where you could peg them with a loss. With a below average secondary and Peyton Manning it was just a bad matchup for the Steelers and a game I thought they could lose. Now this is a game they are favored by 11 in some spots and people are picking them to cover.

This might not be a game we expected but it is a time when the Steelers need to go on the road and take care of business. The Colts still have a ton of talented football players (as you will read in a second) so this shouldn’t be looked as a pushover and the Steelers will have to come in and impose their will early. Kerry Collins is the quarterback for the Colts as he came in right before Peyton Manning had his second neck surgery(!) so he is still literally learning the offense.

This isn’t going to be the kind of game that most of us thought it was going to be when the schedule came out but a win is all that matters in the case. This isn’t the BCS, as long as you win the game it doesn’t matter how it got done. The Steelers need to do what they do and take care of business and get back over the .500 mark.

Let’s take a look at the statistics:


Last Week:

Pittsburgh 24, Seattle 0
Passing: Roethlisberger - 22/30, 298 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Mendenhall - 19 carries, 66 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Wallace - 8 rec, 126 yards, 1 TD

Cleveland 27, Indianapolis 19
Passing: Collins - 19/38, 191 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Addai - 14 carries, 64 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: Baldwin - 4 rec, 66 yards, 0 TD

All-Time Record vs. Indianapolis: 13-6 (5-0 playoffs)

Last Five Meetings

Nov. 9, 2008 - Indianapolis 24, Pittsburgh 20
Jan. 15, 2006 - Pittsburgh 21, Indianapolis 18
Nov. 28, 2005 - Indianapolis 26, Pittsburgh 7
Oct. 21, 2002 - Pittsburgh 28, Indianapolis 10
Oct. 12, 1997 - Pittsburgh 24, Indianapolis 22


Team Stats

Offense (rank in NFL)

Total Offense
Pittsburgh: 366.5 yards/game (13th)
Indianapolis: 260.5 yards/game (29th)

Passing
Pittsburgh: 271.5 yards/game (t-9th)
Indianapolis: 174 yards/game (27th)

Rushing
Pittsburgh: 95 yards/game (20th)
Indianapolis: 86.5 yards/game (23rd)

Points
Pittsburgh: 15.5 points/game (27th)
Indianapolis: 13 points/game (29th)


Defense

Total Defense
Pittsburgh: 274.5 yards/game (2nd)
Indianapolis: 343.5 yards/game (16th)

Pass
Pittsburgh: 174 yards/game (t-4th)
Indianapolis: 207 yards/game (10th)

Rush
Pittsburgh: 100.5 yards/game (12th)
Indianapolis: 136.5 yards/game (29th)

Points
Pittsburgh: 17.5 points/game (6th)
Indianapolis: 30.5 points/game (t-29th)

Hit the jump for the Colts preview



Quarterback



Kerry Collins. Kerry f’in Collins. Not Peyton Manning, Kerry Collins.



Seriously though when the schedule came out and you saw that the Steelers and Colts were meeting on a Sunday night in week three you were pretty pumped. Not pumped because this was Sunday Night Football but because this was going to be a tactical game between Peyton Manning and Dick LeBeau. Then Peyton had like a million surgerys and the Colts had to pick up Collins like three weeks ago. Unreal turn of events.

Not with Collins the Colts literally went from this:



To this:



To put this in perspective the last gig that Collins had was playing for the Tennessee Titans. Last year he was the backup to Vince Young.

Take a second to let that soak in. Vince Young’s backup.

So far this season Collins hasn’t been spectacular, but who can expect that when you are thrown into a system that has only one caretaker in recent past. I am sure the offense is going to come easier for Collins but I would be shocked if it came to him by Sunday.

Through his career Collins has played a fair number of games against the Steelers so this isn’t like he never has seen the Steelers defense before. Collins is averaging over 220 yards per game against the Steelers and has beaten them five times in eight decisions. Not too shabby.

So far this season Collins has only complete 51% of his passes and has only averaged 5.6 yards per attempt. Not great numbers by any stretch, especially against the Texans and Browns defenses. In two games he’s tossed two touchdowns. That isn’t going to get the job done, at all.

Collins, a Penn State alumni, was rumored to be on the field for Joe Paterno’s first ever game coached at Happy Valley. No idea how he got so many extra years of playing time.

Running Backs



One person that has benefited from Peyton Manning in the Colts offense has been Joe Addai. He is not a great back but he is very good in the system that the Colts run. Manning is able to clear out the front line of the defense and Addai is able to take advantage on draws and swing passes.

With Collins, not so much. In two games this season Addai has only carried the ball 22 times for 103 yards. Not a bad yard per carry average, but that is in two games. Averaging about 50 yards per game against a couple of average at best defenses is all well and good but the Steelers are still a top tier defense and you can bet your money that they are going to shut down the run game and make Collins beat them.

Do any of you really know what Joseph Addai’s real name is? I didn’t before I went on the web to do a little light reading. It is actually Joseph Kwahu Duah Addai Jr. That is a pretty impressive name. He gets mad props from me for that one. The more you know.

Addai’s most productive years are far behind him as injuries and some poor play have really slipped off since is last 1,000 yard season in 2007. Since the 2007 season Addai has rushed for 544, 828, 495 yards with 103 this season. Granted most of these rushing totals are in a pass happy offense but those are still not numbers that scare me, especially with the success in which the Steelers defense has against ball carriers.

I am going to let my bias get in the way here as I do have an affection for Addai. Don’t ask me why and to be honest if you asked me I really couldn’t give you a strong answer. I have no idea why I like Addai. Maybe it is because he is a sort of unsung hero or that he is lost in the passing shuffle but I like the guy. Sucks that he isn’t going to manage much of anything on Sunday night. Whatever.

Wide Receivers



If there is one thing that the Colts have is a lot of receivers that can make things happen after they catch the football. Reggie Wayne may be one of the best receivers in the game over the last 5-7 years and the couple of Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie can make you pay after the catch. Throw into the mix Dallas Clark, the hybrid tight end/receiver and you will have your hands full if you are the Steelers secondary.

This year, without Manning, the receivers are having a really hard time finding catches. Only six receivers have caught passes for the Colts and when you take out Addai from the equation you only have five receivers catching passes. In the past you could throw out five receiver sets for the Colts and they would all catch a pass as they march down the field. Now five receivers can only make a catch in two total games.

Wayne is the only pass catcher with more than 100 yards receiving (172) and the only one with more than 10 receptions (11). It is really hard to imagine how effective Wayne is going to be with Collins. You also have to guarantee that Ike Taylor will be on the Wayne assignment and if we know one thing about Ike Taylor it’s that he shuts down the opposing team’s top threat. It will not be easy because Wayne has caught over 80 ball and 1,000 receiving yards each of the last six seasons.

[All the credit for this goes to OFTOT]


Austin Collie might be lucky if he doesn’t get a concussion. He had like three last season but I guess he is back. He has been targets second most on the team behind Wayne but only has three receptions to show for it and only 24 yards receiving.

Dallas Clark is a beast. Has been for some years and is still ticking. Only 71 receiving yards on eight catches. Impressive? No. Could he go off against the Steelers? Yes. The Steelers often struggle against tight ends but I honestly don’t consider Clark a tight end. He splits out just as much and is not know as much of a blocker so it will be interesting to see how they cover him on the inside.

Offensive Line



The offensive line for the Colts have done a great job over the years protecting Peyton Manning in order for him to work his magic against the secondary’s in the AFC. Over the years, however, has been getting a little long in the tooth and the Colts have done something about it in the last two years.

The Colts have three starters (Castonzo, Reitz and Linkenbach) who all have a combined three years experience and the other two (Saturday, Diem) have a combined 24 years of experience. The Steelers rush linebackers are going to be licking their chops at the left side of the line where Castonzo and Reitz are lined up as they only combined for a year of experience. Turns out that Diem will probably not play in this game so that will make the Colts offensive line in limbo and that can’t be a good thing for Collins.

The line has been relatively solid so far as they have only let Collins get sacked five times. The boys over at Football Outsiders do a great job of breaking down the offensive line play which you can find by clicking the link and as you can see the Colts have not done a great job of protecting Collins in pass plays. They have an adjusted sack rate of 7.4% which is just a touch over the average in the NFL (6.9%) and that ranks them 19th in the league. To put the Colts number in perspective the Steelers have an adjusted sack rate of 8.9%. Do with it what you will.

If you are looking over those stats you see that the Colts are just as average in run blocking also. They rank 19th in the NFL in power success (Percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. Also includes runs on first-and-goal or second-and-goal from the two-yard line or closer), 15th in stuffed rank (Percentage of runs where the running back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage. Since being stuffed is bad, teams are ranked from stuffed least often (#1) to most often (#32)).

As you can see the Colts don’t have the best offensive line but it is young and it is only going to get better in the future. No doubt Jeff Saturday keeps that unit together but there is only so much you can do in that aspect. Expect the Steelers to test the young offensive tackles of the Colts.

Defense



You want to know how I knew that Bob Sanders wasn’t on the Colts defense anymore? I looked on the teams injury report and saw that he wasn’t on the IR. Not seeing his name there only meant one thing: he was on another teams injury report.

I think most people would call the Colts defense a little bit of the weak spot on the team. When you are putting up massive points on offense the defense is going to be on the field a ton and thus doesn’t have to be a top tier defense. Last year the Colt’s defense ranked 24th in the league in DVOA after ranking 15th in the league last season. If you need a quick read on Defensive DVOA you can read that here but it basically breaks down play by play, and by situational stats, on how effective the defense is rather than some generic fantasy stat that most people associate good defense with.

The Colts have typically had an average defense but last year that took a huge fall and so far this year the Colts DVOA is 11th in the league through two weeks after being ranked 22nd through one week of play. Obviously it is still early to evaluate a defense on two weeks but it still gives us some sort of resemblance of how good their defense has been. According to Football Outsiders it shows that the Colts rank 12th in the league in pass defense and 14th in run defense.

The Colts are led by linebacker Pat Angerer who has 21 tackles on the season which is good for fifth in the NFL. Angerer is a third year guy from Iowa and if we know one thing about people from Iowa it is that they are corn fed monsters that are strong as hell. No idea if Angerer is strong, or if he like corn, but I am sure he is. Last season Angerer was the team’s second leading tackler with 88 and only one sack.

The Colts have only registered two sacks on the season but that is not to say that they don’t have the ability to rack up the sacks on a moment’s notice. Dwight Freeney is back and has one of the two sacks and his counterpart, Robert Mathis, has the other. The Steelers offensive line isn’t the greatest in the world by any stretch of the imagination so it could get interesting if Mathis and Freeney get on a hot streak.

Last year’s leading tackler, Antoine Bathea, is a strong run stopper from the secondary and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Steelers try to attack that with running the football early and setting up the play action pass. Bathea has 14 tackles on the season.

Overall the Colts defense is younger with five starters have three or less years of experience but they mix that in well with the veteran leadership of Mathis, Freeney and Bathea so it does have the chance of playing great football games. If the Steelers can keep Freeney and Mathis quiet I think that they have a great chance to pick apart the secondary that is playing without Bob Sanders, but who are we kidding, did this team ever really play with Bob Sanders?

Random Thoughts

-The Steelers have a huge chance against a bad team. They took care of business against the Seahawks and while the Colts are probably a much more talented team than the Hawks they are still not one of the better teams in the league. Granted, this goes with saying that Peyton Manning is out with his neck issues but the Steelers need to take advantage of this. You never say that any game is a “must win” but a loss here to the Colts wouldn’t be a good look.

-As I talked about in the Colts defensive preview the Steelers offensive line has to be good against the Colts. If the line can open up a few creases early then it is going to be a lot easier to use the play action to slow down the two edge rushers who are more than able to wreak havoc on the Steelers passing game. The Steelers rank 24th in the league according to Football Outsiders in terms of pass protection so the running game is going to be very important in this football game.

-I would also like to see the Steelers utilize the screen game a little more. What if the running attack can’t get started? What if Freeney is getting free runs off the end? It is going to be tough to ask Jon Scott to hold that down the entire game so the Steelers need to find some way to keep them at bay. I know the Steelers don’t use a lot of screens but Rashard Mendenhall is excellent at catching the ball out of the backfield and there is no better way to slow a pass rushing linebacker down than to throw a few screens to his side. I know this is probably a long shot but it would be really nice to see and something that could slow down the rush linebackers that the Steelers will face in the future if they can successfully get the screen game going.

-On the same line (get the pun) is how rookie Marcus Gilbert is going to handle his assignment in only his second start. Last week he had a pretty nice game and even earned some praise from Mike Tomlin but this week is going to be a much sturdier test from the Colts. It would be great for the young gun to have another solid game and get him some confidence which can go a long way for a young guy in his position. As long as he keeps Ben clean and opens a few holes for the backs I will be happy.

-It will be interesting to see how the running back situation plays out. Ike Redman got a fair amount of carries last week and scored on a nifty 20-yard run (who uses the word nifty anymore?). A lot of people are clamoring for Redman to get the goal line carries and more carries in general. Two running back systems are more of the in thing in the NFL and to be honest to keep Rashard as fresh and healthy as possible it would be nice to give some of his carries to a capable back and that seems to be what Ike is, but I am curious to see how HCMT deals with this over the next couple of games.

-The first two games of the season Roethlisberger haven’t been the best and that hasn’t been a secret. He hasn’t been accurate and the game against the Ravens he made uncharacteristically bad mistakes outside the pocket which are usually his money plays. Last week Ben wasn’t as good as he usually is but he was much better than week one. This got me thinking that Ben is going to be alright this year (not that you didn’t think this already) and his struggles may be directly related to the lockout that happened earlier this year. Let’s not kid ourselves, with all those practices missed that is a lot of throws that Ben didn’t make, regardless of if they are just against air or not. Ben is now just getting into making more throws through practice and games so I expect him to get much better week to week and I expect him to be more accurate this week than last week. When this starts to happen the receivers are going to be that much better and much more dangerous.

-Remember the last time these two teams met in Indianapolis? I do.



-I am going to be in attendance this weekend at Lucas Oil Stadium and to say that this is going to be a home game is going to be the understatement of the year I think. The Colts well below average season coupled with cheap tickets equals a lot of Steelers fans making the trip for this game. I think this is going to be more of a home game for the Steelers than it will be for the Colts. I would be shocked if I am wrong on that aspect of this.

Prediction time. Steelers roll, 27-9.



Hit it.

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