Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) vs. Indianapolis Colts (6-5)
Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015
Photos from the last victory vs the Colts at Heinz Field on October 26th, 2014.
SERIES HISTORY: Steelers lead, 15-6 (Steelers lead, 5-0, postseason). **LAST MEETING: Steelers 51, Colts 34, Oct. 26, 2014, Heinz Field: QB Ben Roethlisberger threw for a team-record 522 yards and six touchdowns and the Steelers won a shootout. WR Antonio Brown had 10 catches for 133 yards and two TDs. TE Heath Miller also surpassed 100 yards receiving (7-112-1). WR Martavis Bryant also had two receiving TDs (5-83-2). The defense contributed to the onslaught via a pick-six from CB William Gay.
LAST TIME OUT:The Colts improved to 4-0 with QB Matt Hasselbeck replacing injured starter Andrew Luck by beating Tampa Bay, 25-12, last Sunday in Indianapolis. The Steelers fell one win short of an NFC West sweep when they lost, 39-30, at Seattle.
WHEN THE COLTS HAVE THE BALL: **They'll try to remain as efficient and as opportunistic as they've been under Hasselbeck, who has completed 64.7 percent of his passes, with seven TDs, two interceptions and a passer rating of 94.4 in winning his four starts.
It's all about recognition, timing and accuracy under Hasselbeck. He doesn't have a rocket arm at 40 but he knows where the ball is supposed to go and when, and he can read a defense. Hasselbeck can also sense pressure and he's mobile enough to buy enough time to throw the ball away once he feels the heat coming. He'll even run the occasional play-action bootleg and get away with it. WRs T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief have combined for 103 catches and 10 receiving TDs (Moncrief excels as the possession guy and Hilton gains yards after the catch).
The running game hasn't produced a 100-yard rusher in 45 consecutive regular-season games. RB Frank Gore's latest unsuccessful attempt resulted in 24 yards gained on 19 attempts against Tampa Bay (running behind TE/FB Jack Doyle didn't help). Gore has all four of Indianapolis' rushing touchdowns this season and has averaged 3.6 yards per carry. The Colts rushed 26 times for 27 yards against the Buccaneers behind an offensive line that had rookie Denzelle Good starting at RT after having been inactive for the first 10 games and veteran Joe Reitz moving from RT to LT to replace Anthony Castonzo (knee).
Indianapolis is No. 22 in total offense (26th rushing, 14th passing) but the Colts are No. 7 in third down efficiency (42.9 percent) and No. 5 in red zone efficiency (62.9 percent).
Here is a look at the statistical leaders for the both the Steelers and Colts heading into the Week 13 contest at Heinz Field.
WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL: **They'll hope to pick up where they left off against the Colts last season when they take on an Indianapolis unit ranked No. 26 in total defense, No. 24 in rushing defense and No. 27 in pass defense.
The Colts compensate for yards surrendered by taking the ball away. Indianapolis is tied for third in the NFL with 14 interceptions, thanks in parts to SS Mike Adams (who's tied for second in the NFL with five despite missing two straight games and three of the last five) and FS Dwight Lowery (tied for sixth in the league with four picks). The Colts only have 19 sacks but they were able to generate consistent pressure against Tampa Bay while amassing five of those 19 quarterback drops. Veteran OLBs Robert Mathis and Trent Cole share the RUSH linebacker position. Mathis has four sacks and he still has that spin move.
CB Vontae Davis will match-up on an opposing receiver if Indy decides to play it that way. But Davis doesn't suffocate in coverage the way Richard Sherman of Seattle can. The Colts run to the ball well and tackle well and they're tough to get outside against (OLB Erik Walden, who plays the strong side, sets a nice edge). Like the offense, Indy's defense is more opportunistic than dominating (the Colts have three pick-sixes).
SPECIAL-TEAMS HEADLINERS: P Pat McAfee and the Colts are No. 1 in the NFL in gross punting average (49.1 yards per) and net punting average (44.2). Indianapolis also compensates for yards allowed/not gained on special teams. K Adam Vinatieri missed a PAT against the Bucs (he had to kick the laces after snap/hold issues) but has gone 16-for-18 on field goals with a long of 55. Steelers WR Jacoby Jones averaged 29.5 yards on four kickoff returns against Seattle, including a season-long 36-yard effort.*THE X-FACTOR: *Hasselbeck's four starts have come in Indianapolis, at Houston and at Atlanta. He hasn't been outside yet. How might playing in weather and playing on grass affect his throwing and the timing that's so critical to the Indianapolis passing game? And will crowd noise become a factor in helping the Steelers' defense to disrupt from the pocket?
THEY SAID IT: "Coach Tomlin doesn't get rattled. He always coveys to us a positive spirit of next man up, almost a we-shall-overcome-type thing. When things get hard we don't run from it, we don't shy away. We kind of embrace it. I think it hardens us as a group when you can handle adversity. We just follow the lead of our leaders." - Steelers FS Mike Mitchell * *