INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 12: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts looks to pass the ball against the St. Louis Rams during a preseason NFL game at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 12, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Last weekend was the first home game for the "new era" Colts, and they put on a helluva show. Their 38-3 domination of the St. Louis Rams opened some eyes, bringing attention to the new team and to their new quarterback, Andrew Luck. For their second preseason game, they go on the road to a place where the Colts have won just once in roughly the last 35 years: Pittsburgh.
Doesn't matter what the setting is. The Pittsburgh Steelers flat out own the Colts. During the 1970s, Terry Bradshaw and his crew where the demons that haunted the playoff dreams of QB Bert Jones and the vaunted Baltimore "Sack Pack." In 2005, Ben Roethlisberger's shoestring tackle of Nick Harper, who was running for a sure-fire touchdown after scooping up a Jerome Bettis fumble late in the fourth quarter of the division round playoff game between Indy and Pittsburgh, still shoots icy bolts of heartache all throughout my body when I think if it. Pittsburgh is a franchise that has dominated both the Indianapolis and Baltimore versions of the Colts.
They are also extremely tough to beat at home.
Adding to this preseason drama is Bruce Arians, the onetime offensive coordinator there who was a major reason why Ben Roethlisberger has played in two Super Bowls in the last five years (winning one). Despite his success there, along with the support of head coach Mike Tomlin and Roethlisberger, Arians was essentially fired this offseason in Pittsburgh. The newswires say he "retired," but everyone knows that was a load a bull. The Rooney Family, who has owned the Steelers since the dawn of time, effectively pushed him out the door and replaced him with former Chiefs head coach Todd Haley.
Arians was not out of work for long. Chuck Pagano rang him up shortly after it was announced that the former Ravens defensive coordinator would replace Jim Caldwell as Colts head coach. Now, Arians is running the Colts offense, and Andrew Luck is his trigger man.
It seems pretty obvious that the parting of ways with the Rooneys in Pittsburgh did not sit well with Arians. He will be motivated to show them up... in their building... in a primetime preseason game.
What To Watch
- Andrew Luck gets his first road test. It's a hostile environment, and the Steelers have a pressure-heavy defense that gives teams all sorts of fits. Luck could get smacked around in this game, and that might be a good thing. We haven't seen the young Stanford phenom react to adversity. How will he come back if he throws an INT, or a pick six, or fumbles on a key down?
- Pittsburgh's wide outs are fast, and they will cause major mismatches with the Colts corners. If you want to see if Justin King, Cassius Vaughn, or D.J. Johnson are truly worth a damn, this is a good test for them.
- Even without James Harrison, the Steeler front can create pressure via Dick LeBeau's zone blitz scheme. The offensive line will struggle. Watch the running backs, in particular Donald Brown and Vick Ballard. How well to they pick up and block in blitz protection?
- Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, and Jerry Hughes should have a field day against the Steelers terrible offensive line. Yes, Pittsburgh has some talented rookies in David DeCastro (Luck's former teammate at Stanford) and Mike Adams, but the line in general is still a mess. They should pressure the Steelers' QBs.
If you have some keys to the game, or some match-ups you plan to watch, toss them in the comments below.