Indianapolis is entering the final stage of the preseason program with the annual dress rehearsal game with this iteration played against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Scott Tolzien will get his second stab at the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger in the less than a year as franchise quarterback Andrew Luck is still quietly involved in some kind of throwing program and has not yet been removed from the PUP list to resume practice with the team.
The Colts will will still be without a number of players due to varying injuries: QB Andrew Luck (shoulder), C Ryan Kelly (foot), TE Erik Swoope (knee), WR T.Y. Hilton, likely WR Donte Moncrief (shoulder), likely WR Chester Rogers (hamstring), S Malik Hooker, and S Clayton Geathers (neck) among other starters who might use the day to rest. As we learn more we will update this list.
Among the biggest stories for the Colts in this game is whether rookie running back Marlon Mack can pick up where he left off with a strong first showing in Dallas. Mack averaged over 8 yards a touch and showed the kind of explosiveness and speed that the Colts backfield has been lacking for years.
Undrafted rookie JoJo Natson was a player I had on my list of likely early cuts due to his small stature. Natson clearly did not care at all about my assumptions and has used two preseason games to show that he is capable of being a big play threat in this league as a returns — and that he is fully capable of making an impacts as a receiver as well. We will keep an eye on how much he is used in tonight’s game and if he can continue making a big impression.
Rookie receiver Bug Howard has taken advantage of an injury epidemic at wide receiver to get a long look during practice and in games. His role on the team could come down to a competition with veteran receiver Kamar Aiken who has yet to make a lot of noise in training camp and preseason. The competition between these two players and the amount of opportunity each sees against the Steelers tonight could go a long way in helping the Colts front office determine who they want to keep around.
Keep in mind that it might benefit Howard that he could receive more time with Stephen Morris, who has been vastly outperforming presumed starter Scott Tolzien.
Speaking of the quarterbacks, head coach Chuck Pagano announced that Tolzien will receive the first team reps once again despite mounting pressure from a rather angry fan base to give Morris his chance. Expect the heat to turn up quite a bit if Tolzien comes out in his dress rehearsal opportunity and fails to be effective while Morris continues to move the ball and put points on the board. In fact, I’ll predict that if Morris gets two quarters or more on the field, the Colts will win the game.
On the defensive side of the football, keep your eye out for Grover Stewart (#68). He is still learning but in the first two preseason games he competed very well in one-on-one match-ups. This is the first time he’ll have planned for his opponent so if he can take step forward and become even more disruptive, it could play an important role on the line as the Colts head into the regular season.
Two secondary players to keep an eye on include Malik Hooker and T.J. Green. If Hooker gets another opportunity to take the field, he will have the chance to face Ben Roethlisberger. T.J. Green has been getting moved all around in the secondary to see where he best fits and could get the opportunity to face some rather talents receivers on the Steelers roster. If he can continue progressing as a corner it could be a real help to the Colts depth.
To get prepared for the game here is some information you need to know:
7:30 PM ET Saturday, August 26, 2017
Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Fox – Don Fischer and Rick Venturi with the call
WFNI and WLHK – Bob Lamey and Jim Sorgi with the call