INDIANAPOLIS – It's easy to get caught up in what the Indianapolis Colts are not. They are not a team that goes into games with the better quarterback, not anymore. And they are not a team built to play the way they now must play to win consistently without having the better quarterback.
Most NFL fans who turned their attention to Lucas Oil Stadium last Sunday night did so to see what the Indianapolis Colts look like without Peyton Manning, but for the contingent in town from Pittsburgh, there was something else to be revealed.
"Particularly in September football, every time you step out of locker rooms, you're defining what kind of team you are and what direction you're going," Coach Mike Tomlin had said after the team's Friday practice. "We recognize the significance of this – it's our first opportunity to go and get an AFC road win. It's pivotal. I think our guys understand that."
The Steelers arrived here as one of the league's 18 teams with a 1-1 record, and their prospects for 2011 seemed every bit as either/or as such numbers indicate. The performance in Baltimore stunk and was extra disappointing because they did not match the Ravens' intensity, whereas the home opener against the Seahawks offered marked improvements in every area and turned into a dominating performance, albeit against an inferior opponent.
What the Steelers needed from this weekend was to show themselves capable of taking on a desperate opponent on its home field and getting out of town with a win. If that comes across as insultingly trite, what's worthy of consideration is why this quality is one these Steelers in particular need to develop.
The Steelers got their victory, and there is a lot for them to be proud of for achieving it. It goes down as a 23-20 win, and most accounts will include the fact the Colts were Peyton-less. How much of the former was due to the latter? To be fair, a not insignificant amount, but while the Colts not having Manning weakened them by removing a premier talent from their lineup, the Colts not having Manning also made them dangerous to the Steelers in this slot on the season's schedule.
The goal is to be back at this same Lucas Oil Stadium on the first Sunday in February. For the Steelers, a step along the way had to contain this win in September.
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