The Indianapolis Colts announced on Saturday that starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo has been downgraded to ‘out’ ahead of Sunday’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers with a knee/ankle injury:
T Anthony Castonzo (knee/ankle) has been downgraded to OUT for #INDvsPIT. https://t.co/VBVrHjIyyX— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) December 26, 2020
It’s another critical loss to the Colts offensive line, as the unit will already be without starting right tackle Braden Smith, who was recently placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
The Colts also are facing a tough matchup against first-team All-Pro pass rusher T.J. Watt, who leads the league with 13.0 sacks, and the blitz-happy Pittsburgh Steelers defense.
Losing both of their starting bookends right before playing the Steelers is less than ideal.
Ahead of this week, the Steelers had the NFL’s best team pass rush win rate at 55%. As a result, their pass rush has topped the league with 47.0 sacks on the season.
With Castonzo out, the Colts could moonlight All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson at left tackle again, who played limited snaps there against the Las Vegas Raiders three weeks ago—but actually looked pretty good, all things considered.
That would enable them to slide perhaps rookie Danny Pinter at starting left guard, as backup OC/OG Joey Hunt, similar to Smith, was also recently played on the team’s Practice Squad/COVID-19 list earlier this week.
It also appears that reserve offensive tackle Chaz Green could be a safe bet to start at right tackle in Smith’s absence on the other side—as the team is without veteran Le’Raven Clark already for the rest of the year with a season-ending injury.
The Colts lack of proven and reliable offensive tackle depth has been a lingering issue all season—with the veteran Castonzo having battled some injuries and as a result, been in-and-out of the starting lineup.
However, the team’s tackle depth deficiency will clearly be magnified on Sunday with both of the team’s starting tackles out of the lineup against an elite pass rushing Steelers defense.
The Colts also announced that the team has elevated offensive guard Jake Eldrenkamp and offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb off of the team’s practice squad to the active roster as COVID-19 replacements for backup reinforcements (although it’s possible that the veteran Webb could start at right tackle).