The Pittsburgh Steelers start their second half of the season with a road game against the Indianapolis Colts. While the Colts are in last place with a three and six record this game is important for the Steelers. If there ever was a game that Ben Roethlisberger and his receiving corps got on the same page, this would be it. Here’s what to watch for in week 10.
Week 10 Pittsburgh Steelers What To Watch For
By The Numbers…
Steelers fans are hoping that the offense finally hits its stride after the bye week. It’s no secret that the last three times these two teams have played, Roethlisberger has put up monster numbers. His stat-line in those three games is awe inspiring: 1,107 yards, 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
The Colts have struggled across the board while their secondary is in shambles. They cut ties with Vontae Davis, perhaps the team’s best cover safety. Stand out safety, and 2017 first round draft pick Malik Hooker Is out for the year with a torn-up knee. As a result, the Colts have the 31st-ranked defense (out of 32 teams) and are last in the league, surrendering 28.9 points per game. This is a tailor-made scenario for the Steelers offenses to get their passing game firing on all cylinders.
Strength Versus Weakness
The last time the Steelers took the field they gave up over 400 passing yards to Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions. There’s no doubt they are looking to right the ship in their defensive secondary, especially after a week of rest. This week they face a back-up quarterback in Jacoby Brissett as Andrew Luck has been sent to the injured reserve.
To make the things even tougher on the Colts, they have a banged up offensive line facing a Steelers defense that is second in the league with 26 sacks. The Colts are fielding at least two back-up offensive lineman, who have struggled to protect Brissett to the tune of surrendering 36 sacks. Look for Brissett to be on his back early and often throughout this game.
When the Steelers took the field against the Lions in week eight there were a lot of changes on offense. It will be interesting if they were just adapting the injuries and situations or decide to stick with those changes. The most glaring question will be how Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster are implemented. Do they get equal touches? Do they feed the hot hand? It will be interesting to see how Mike Tomlin and company handle that situation.
Tight Situation At Tight End
Another situation to watch is evolving at tight end. Before the Lions game, Vance McDonald had surpassed Jesse James as the number one tight end. Le’Veon Bell ripping off 179 and 134 rushing yards with McDonald manning that position is no mere coincidence. His progress has been slow but he’s a much more effective run blocker than James.
Another aspect to watch is Marcus Gilbert’s health. Last season, when the Steelers won nine games in a row en route to the AFC Championship game they used backup tackle Chris Hubbard as a blocking tight end. With Gilbert’s injured hamstring Hubbard has had to man the right tackle position, and done so well. Roethlisberger hasn’t been sacked in two games. With Gilbert scheduled to make his return, will Hubbard kick back out to tight end? Or will he return to the bench? We’ll see Mike Munchak’s decision come Sunday.
Best In the Business
Antonio Brown and Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton are the NFL’s top two receivers when it comes to receiving yards. Brown leads the NFL with 835 receiving yards while Hilton is a distant second with 702 yards receiving. Even more impressive, Brown has amassed those numbers in only eight games while Hilton has played nine.
With the Colts banged up secondary and sporadic offense, it doesn’t seem like they have much of a hope of containing Brown from putting up big numbers. In contrast, the Steelers secondary is healthy and needs to shut down Hilton if the Steelers are going to dominate this game. In the Colts three wins, Hilton has posted 153, 177 and 175 receiving yards respectively. Against the Lions the Steelers secondary was giving up chunk yardage plays. Putting an end to that, and shutting down Hilton on Sunday will fall on Artie Burns’ shoulders. Will he be up to the task?
On paper the Steelers match up really well against the banged up and demoralized Colts. The Colts are ranked in the bottom five of the NFL on both offense and defense. While the Steelers are healthy and have a lot more talent on both sides on the ball. Sometimes Mike Tomlin’s squad’s play down to lesser opponents, especially on the road. Also, Tomlin’s teams don’t always perform well coming off of a bye. They have posted a 6-4 record including three straight losses in the Steelers last three seasons. Ironically, these have been some of Tomlin’s most talented teams. But as long as the Steelers implement their game plan and stay away from penalties they should come away with a win.