The Pittsburgh Steelers will march into Lucas Oil Stadium needing a win on Saturday. After losing back-to-back games to two-win teams, the Steelers’ once-strong playoff hopes are on thin ice, and they’ll need a victory in Indianapolis over the Colts to feel good about their prospects going forward.
KEY TO VICTORY: Hold The Ball
This is not a sexy thought, but well, I think the Steelers offense would gladly trade visual appeal for results. The Colts have allowed the most plays to be run against them per game in the NFL this season on defense at 68.
The Steelers don’t need to unlock big, explosive plays to exert their will and win this game. They really just need to clean up a lot of the mistakes that have plagued them the last few weeks.
Stop taking penalties. Stop wasting time outs. Get the ball snapped. Get lined up right. Stay on schedule. Get first downs. Even if it’s field goals, and the red zone issues persist, that should be good enough.
OVERLOOKED MATCHUP: George Pickens and Diontae Johnson vs. JuJu Brents and Jaylon Jones
The Colts are going to sit in a Cover 3 defense for most of the game, which is going to take away the deep middle of the field, so you should not expect a huge day from Pat Freiermuth.
That will also leave rookie cornerbacks JuJu Brents and Jaylon Jones alone on the outside with George Pickens and Diontae Johnson. Unless they’re insane, that will also result in lots of off coverage.
It might not be a big-play day for these guys, but Pickens is great at catching back-shoulder balls, and Johnson’s elite inside releases could give the Colts fits.
BOLD PREDICTION: Watt Gets Splash
Another player that is facing a rookie is Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who will be up against fourth-rounder Blake Freeland. But really, Watt is playing against Gardner Minshew, who is wary enough to get the ball out quickly most of the time and keep him out of trouble.
The Steelers have been dropping Watt into cover more this season, and he is outstanding at getting his hands up to disrupt the quick game. I see Watt making a play on the football in this one.
This is essentially a must-win game for the Steelers, and while the Colts are right there in the playoff race, the stakes are just not as high for the home team. The Colts have the free pass of low expectations coming into the season and therefore, aren’t a team that’s coming in with near the kind of pressure that the Steelers are under.
I like the Black and Gold to rise to the challenge, even if it isn’t beautiful.
Steelers 20, Colts 13
Last week: Steelers 27-9 (L)
Steelers +1.5 (-110)
Under 42.5 (-110)
George Pickens over 3.5 pass receptions (-105)
Last week: 1-2 (W Trubisky over 180.5 passing yards; L Steelers -6, Under 30.4)
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