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2011 NFL Week Three Preview: Indianapolis Colts Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Since 2003, there have only been three representatives in the Super Bowl from the AFC: the Colts, the Patriots, and the Colts opponent Sunday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers. These three teams have been the class of the entire NFL over this stretch, which makes it so strange that the Colts and Steelers have only played three times in that stretch:

  • A 26-7 stomping by the Colts on a Monday night back in 2005. I remember that game starting with a bomb from Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison, and the Colts were in cruise control after that.
  • The 21-18 Steeler Divisional Round win in that same year. You know, the one where Nick Harper's wife played a part in a Colts loss, and the final game for the "liquored-up kicker" Mike Vanderjagt.
  • A 24-20 Colts win in Pittsburgh in 2008, where the Colts ran a perfect wheel route to Dominic Rhodes for the winning TD pass with just over three minutes left in the game, and the defense held at the end (too bad the Cardinals couldn't have done that later that year...)

It's strange the two teams haven't played more, which made me excited when I saw the schedule had them playing early in the season, as it would have been a great test for both teams. As I'm sure you are, I'm not really excited at all now. The Steelers come in to Lucas Oil Stadium at 1-1, getting whipped by the Ravens in Week 1, and shutting out the Seahawks last week. They don't have any significant injuries to speak of early on this season, so this would be a tough game even if Manning was under center.

After the jump we'll see how both teams have fared so far this season, lay out some keys to the game, and make a prediction...

Adjusted Statistical Comparison for the Colts and Steelers:

Statistic Colts Steelers
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 71.7% 14 76.7% 27 74.9% 8 59.6% 6
ANPY/A 6.591 12 5.663 19 4.626 23 8.035 28
Turnovers 1.54 12 2.75 7 3.79 31 -0.74 31
Yds/Drive 34.93 8 33.99 22 31.83 12 28.89 18
ToP/Drive 2:49.0 15 2:58.0 24 2:51.0 13 2:38.0 16
Yds/Play 5.483 12 6.133 30 5.377 15 5.631 22
First Downs/Drive 1.98 7 1.88 23 1.94 8 1.13 6
3rd/4th Down 7.2% 32 53.6% 28 49.0% 9 39.5% 18
Avg Start Pos 22.6 31 39.6 29 29.7 21 28.1 11
3 and Outs 4.76 21 3.23 22 2.84 10 4.79 10
RZ Eff 51.0% 24 88.0% 26 55.0% 22 56.1% 13
Plays/Drive 6.521 7 5.560 17 5.930 11 5.057 11
Penalty Yds / Play 1.011 22 0.217 29 0.408 6 1.185 6
RB Success 44.6% 16 56.9% 29 57.8% 4 38.8% 7
Yds/Carry 2.83 24 5.65 28 4.79 14 4.26 17
Net Punts Yds/Game 33.59 24 43.40 30 48.49 3 41.26 26
Overall 15 32 12 15

Keys to the game:

  • The first thing that jumps out to me are Turnovers, where the Steelers have not been good this season. They turned the ball over 7 times against the Ravens in Week 1, but cleaned that up last week. However, that play-making defense hasn't caused a turnover in either of the first two games. For the Colts to have any chance Sunday night, they cannot turn the ball over.
  • The Steelers pass defense also hasn't been that great this season, and they haven't faced one of the top guys either. Look for the Colts to try and go deep several times (hopefully on 1st or 2nd down), trying to either get the completion, or draw a penalty. Those seem to be the best balls Kerry Collins throws, so might as well go with it.
  • I expect long, time-consuming drives when the Steelers have the ball. And expect them to score touchdowns once they get to the Red Zone, as the Colts have had little success this season inside the 20 yard line. The defense either must get off the field earlier, or hold the Steelers to field goals if they want to win.
  • The new-look Colts rushing attack will have its hands full Sunday night, but it'll be good to find out how well the Offensive Line is blocking. I'd like to see some 3rd and Short practice with Delone Carter, even if it is to just gain some confidence.

I believe the fact that this Colts team is not happy losing, and they are trying their damnedest to not get beat each and every week. I really do. The problem is that emotion can only take you so far in the NFL, and it almost always comes down to execution, which the Colts have not done so far this season. A couple early Steeler turnovers will keep the crowd in the game, but it isn't something the Colts should count on. The line for the game is 10.5, which is ridiculous to think about, but extremely fair, as that's about where I see the game being. The Colts will hang around for a while, but the Steelers are just too good for the Colts to win.

Steelers 27, Colts 17