The Steelers take on the Indianapolis Colts, a team they have defeated in the last four meetings, at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday. The last time the two teams met was a 28-7 victory at Heinz Field last year.
The rosters are different for both teams, but one thing Colts Coach Chuck Pagano knows is different roster or not, the Steelers are a tough opponent, especially on defense.
"God are they playing good," said Pagano. "Statistically you know where they are ranked, we know where they are ranked. You look at them on film and as always well coached. I know Keith Butler, I have known him for a long, long time, and Mike (Tomlin), they do a great job of coaching those guys. They are sound, they play extremely hard, they run to the football, they are physical, they smother you.
"Big and stout up front, they set edges, tough to run against. When you go back and try to throw the football, they are No. 2 against the pass and have 26 sacks. They have of a bunch of guys who can get after the quarterback. Schematically they make it very difficult on your quarterback and offensive line. You have to do a great job of communicating and trying to ID what they are doing. They mix in a bunch of pressures with zone coverages and they force you into making a bunch of mistakes, not only in pass protection, but in throwing the ball. You think you have guys open and the next thing you know you are throwing into coverage. They do a great job. they have a bunch of great players. They play extremely hard. They are tough and physical and are great tacklers and swarm. It's suffocating to say the least."
Pagano referred to the 26 sacks the Steelers have, and the fact that they come from 10 different players is something that makes knowing where the pressure is coming from very difficult.
"Usually you will see a team that if they have 26 sacks, you have a guy with 10 or11 and a guy with seven or eight," said Pagano. "But they have guys littered all over that. You look at the stat sheet, there is production from all three levels, up front, the linebackers and the back end. It makes it even more difficult."
In addition to talking about the defense, the Colts weighed in on Ben Roethlisberger, the offensive line and much more.
Pagano on the offensive line:
"As good as they get in the league. Best center in the league (Maurkice Pouncey). Best left guard in the league in (David) DeCastro. You've got a giant left tackle (Alejandro Villanueva). It's a tall order."
Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins on Roethlisberger:
"Big Ben is Big Ben. He's one of the great quarterbacks out there. He's hard to get down. With the amount of weapons he has on offense, it just makes it that much harder. We've got to be sound in our technique and sound in our gaps. We're ready for it, and we accept the challenge."
Pagano on Roethlisberger:
"He's still Big Ben. He's strong, he hangs in there. They are third in the league in sacks given up. They've only given up 10. He's not going to take a sack. He's got a great run game. Yeah, he's the same deal. Still playing at a high level. You can listen to whatever you want to listen to, but he's getting the ball out, doesn't take sacks, is hard to get on the ground. You don't get that right arm wrapped up, he finds a way to get it out. Still throwing the deep ball. Guys are making plays for him. Got the run game. Got a lot of weapons around him."
Cornerback Pierre Desir on the Steelers' weapons on offense:
"They're a great team. They have multiple weapons. We've just got to stick to what we've been doing and fix some things here and there, but we've got to play our game."
Pagano on the Steelers offensive weapons:
"Explosive as heck on offense, and got a hall of fame quarterback and a top-flight wideout (Antonio Brown) who is leading the league right now in yards and receptions and all that stuff. And a back (Le'Veon Bell) that's as good as they get. A bunch of great skill and an offensive line that's very, very good. You can't give up big plays to No. 84. Can't allow him to wreck the game and he's done it over and over and over again."
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett on the defense:
"A top-five defense. They do a lot of things well. They get after the quarterback. They (cause) pass disruptions. They play so well. A lot of those guys know the system really well, you can tell. They're just flying around and playing in sync, and we've got to go out there and do our job and be on our P's and Q's." Pagano on how to handle all of the Steelers' offensive weapons:
"It's hard. You've only got 11 guys. If you put two over here, that leaves you how many? Nine. That's for 26 (Le'Veon Bell), 81 (Jesse James), 89 (Vance McDonald), 10 (Martavis Bryant) and 19, JuJu the law firm, Smith-Schuster. Yeah, they ain't going to let us play with 12 (players). I wish they would."