Steelers hoping to avoid trap in Indy (Nov 12, 2017)

The AFC North-leading Pittsburgh Steelers head to Indianapolis to take on the 3-5 Colts in this Week 10 NFL matchup. The Steelers are coming off their bye week. The Colts are riding high after a win on the road versus AFC South rivals the Houston Texans.

The Colts are searching for another big upset. The Steelers are looking to avoid playing down to their opponent like they did in the two losses to the Chicago Bears and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“This is a trap game for us,” Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert said. “There will be a lot of noise out there, people expecting us to win. We can’t hear all that noise. We have to execute the game plan and not shoot ourselves in the foot. That’s been our issue this year — not playing up to the level in games we’re supposed to win. This is a really good team, but we can’t go out there and lay an egg.”

One way to stay on the winning side of the ledger for the Steelers is run the football with running back Le’Veon Bell. The former Michigan State star is third in the NFL in rushing with 760 yards. In the three games Bell has carried the football over 30 times, he has produced 130-plus yards each time. The Steelers won all three games. The Colts give up an average 113.9 yards per game on the ground. The Colts have given up the most points in the NFL with 260. The average points per game Indianapolis surrenders is 28.9, which is over 2 points higher than the 31st ranked team, the San Francisco 49ers (26.6).

The Steelers also have the NFL’s leading receiver in Antonio Brown. The former Central Michigan standout leads the league in catches (57) and yards (835). Rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is second on the team with 24 catches and has gotten better each week. These two playmakers will be facing the NFL’s second worst passing defense. The Colts give up 279.7 yards through the air and will be missing veteran cornerback Vontae Davis again this week.

Davis didn’t even make the trip to Houston in Week 9 and does not seem happy about this season as a Colt. Davis was left home by what head coach Chuck Pagano called a “coach’s decision.”

“It should be more about the respect. I’m a professional,” said Davis, who remains limited in practice. “I’ve been in (the NFL) long enough. When I look at the situation, I feel like there was no respect.”

The Colts’ secondary already lost rookie starter Malik Hooker to a season-ending knee injury and are playing with players who are rookies or journeymen from other NFL teams. Indianapolis could also be missing 2017 second-round selection Quincy Wilson as well versus the Steelers. The cornerback from Florida is dealing with knee issues and missed the Texans game. The Colts also lost starting defensive end Henry Anderson for the season in the Texans game. Anderson suffered a laryngeal fracture after getting hit in the throat during game action.

The Colts have one of the best wide receivers in the NFL in T.Y. Hilton. The speedy wideout leads the NFL in yards per catch at 20.6 (minimum 30 receptions). Hilton already has two games this season of 175-plus yards receiving. Tight end Jack Doyle has 50 catches on the season, which leads all tight ends. The Colts have offensive weapons. The issue has been the play at quarterback and offensive line.

Quarterback Andrew Luck will not play this season. Opening day starter Scott Tolzien lasted one game. Jacoby Brissett, who went through the offseason as a New England Patriot, has improved since taking over the Colts’ starting role. But one of Brissett’s weaknesses plays in to a strength of the Steelers. Brissett has been sacked 32 times this season. Part of the blame falls on the quarterback but more falls on the Indianapolis offensive line.

The offensive line has been inconsistent all season and is facing a Pittsburgh defense that is effective at sacking the quarterback. The Steelers are tied for fourth in the NFL with 26 sacks. Defensive lineman Cameron Heyward leads the team with five. Pittsburgh is second in the NFL in points allowed with 16.4, so the Colts’ offense must find a way to take advantage of scoring opportunities.