Pregame Zone Blitz: Lots To Underestimate In Steelers vs. Colts

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 18: Kerry Collins #5 of the Indianapolis Colts is sacked by Artis Hicks #75 of the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 18, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Never underestimate the power of a home team during primetime.

PZB doesn't care who is or is not under center, road primetime games are difficult. Die hard Colts fans have probably already begun to imbibe in preparation for Sunday night's game, and noise knows nothing about a team's record.

We've got some love for Troy, some more hate from Warren Sapp and maybe, just maybe, a prediction for some Big Plays. 

Opponent Web Sites/Forums

BigBlueShoe from Stampede Blue has a slightly different opinion than Jeff George on his ability to learn the Colts offense in a few days, as he allegedly told Sam Farmer Tuesday. According to BBS, "...A brain dead jelly fish has a better chance of learning the current Colts offense in a few days over" George.

 Indy Star beat man Bob Kravitz tells Colts fans to knock off the "Suck For Luck" stuff.

Of course, Kravitz isn't big on QB Kerry Collins, either, admitting he was wrong about his ability to lead the Colts. He even dropped the "F" word as a potential replacement in a game or two.

Last Game

The Steelers lost the coin toss, but elected to kick the tar out of the Seahawks all game anyway.

In one of the more one-sided wins we'll ever witness, the Steelers rebounded mightily from one of the more one-sided losses they've had in Week 1.

And judging by the four-way tie for first (and last) place in the AFC North, it looks as if consistency will be key in this turbulent 2011 season. As former Baltimore Sun columnist, now ESPN's AFC North blogger, Jamison Hensley wrote Monday, "This division doesn't need an analyst. It needs a psychologist."

Along with the Steelers, the Saints, the Falcons and the Titans all rebounded from bad Week 1 losses to win relatively easily in Week 2. Baltimore, Carolina, Oakland and Minnesota are kicking themselves for not grasping Week 2 wins when they could have had them.

As usual, the NFL is resorting to its Week-to-Week roots, and the team that will best prepare itself to play each week - and gets some luck along the way - will be the ones to separate themselves in the long run.

The Steelers, however, are just happy to have had the chance to completely dominate the hapless Seahawks, and it didn't take Steelers coach Mike Tomlin long to force his team to get back on the horse.

After WR Mike Wallace drew a pass interference in the end zone (on Brandon Browner, who, incidentally, was beaten all game as badly as I've ever seen a cornerback get beat), three subsequent tries from the goal line and a few yards off it resulted in nothing. Tomlin called in his heavies, a three TE-set with RG Doug Legursky in the backfield along with Rashard Mendenhall and no receivers with the intention of falling over the line with the ball.

Thanks to a lack of cohesion in the group, Legursky and TE David Johnson went after the same defender, and no one accounted for All-World S Earl Thomas, who stopped Mendenhall a half-yard short of paydirt.

It was almost as if that was the exact situation Tomlin wanted. He could challenge the defense early and aggressively.    A defensive unit completely destroyed by Baltimore the previous week had the chance to pick up some momentum right away, and SS Troy Polamalu led by example.

First play, Polamalu covers Marshawn Lynch giving him a textbook jam behind the line of scrimmage that disrupts his route enough he had to catch the ball in a bad spot, netting just one yard.

Second play, Polamalu crashes down the line, and jumps on top of Lynch, who was tied up by ILB Lawrence Timmons. No gain.

Third play, Polamalu lines up on the offensive left side of the formation, and again, chases Lynch down for no gain, and nearly brings him down in the end zone.

Polamalu was credited with 2.5 tackles in three plays, Seahawks punt it away.

In many ways, that sequence of plays was better for the 2011 Steelers than 3 or even 7 points would have been. The defense is the backbone of this team, and they fed off Polamalu's inspired effort those first three plays.

Besides, as the rest of the game turned out, they didn't need the points. Seattle never sniffed the end zone.

Us Against The World

How utterly ridiculous is it that James Harrison makes a football act and gets fined $75,000, and Richard Seymour, despite whatever happened to provoke him, slugs a player on national TV in full view of the cameras and knocks him to the ground -- and gets fined $25,000. Weak. Very weak.

Peter King

Warren Sapp's relevancy is on life support, circling the drain as we type. He's doing a great job clinging to life, though, firing even more shots at the Steelers alleged "old defense."

Sapp appeared with Cris Collinsworth on "Inside the NFL" this week, again adamantly saying the Steelers "are done."

"Where were (the Steelers) last season? The pinnacle, the Super Bowl. They lost that. This group of players is coming down. It's over."

Typically, PZB likes it when the Steelers are out of the national spotlight. That's why I almost went with the fact NFL.com ran a story complete with video and quotes about Chargers DT Anthony Garay's fine from hitting Tom Brady, yet, there wasn't anything about DE Raheem Brock's fine (same amount) for his hit on Ben Roethlisberger in this space until two hours after the Garay fine was announced.

How dare I suggest the league's official media outlet report something outside the scope of their "Tom Terrific" agenda.

There's nothing worse for the "Us vs. The World" mentality than national media speaking positively about the Steelers. So we appreciate Sapp's fatheaded comments. Certainly, the Steelers aren't playing for Sapp's approval, and they can't help who is on their schedule. Eventually, when the Steelers beat a contender, the way Sapp wants, they can ask Mike Tomlin what he'd have to say to Warren Sapp now. Tomlin can just look at the camera, and reply blankly:

"Who's Warren Sapp?"

Opponent Spotlight: QB Kerry Collins

Another week of focus on the opposing QB. Cliché, perhaps, but the Colts are going to go as far as Collins will take them.

And the Steelers will go as far as their ability to pressure him will take them.

The key to Indianapolis's offense is going to rest solely in their ability to protect Collins. While he didn't miss any practice time, the report is he has a sore throwing shoulder. Anything else the Steelers can do to make him uncomfortable will help in what could be a blowout performance.

Collins was thrown into the mess in Indianapolis brand new to the inside of the organization. The receivers there mostly have never played with a pro quarterback not named Peyton. The offensive struggles they've had can be attributed almost entirely to the lack of cohesion just about every other team had between their passers and receivers.

Collins, I believe, has been in the NFL longer than most of us have been alive, and he's going to know how to adjust to those around him. It still takes some time, though. Maybe two weeks? That would put him in a good spot in Week 3 - especially with a home crowd on Sunday Night looking for something to cheer for.

It's a sneaky, maybe dangerous, game for the Steelers. But as the M.O. of this team goes, put pressure on the QB, good things happen for  you.

Steelers Spotlight: CB William Gay

Gay will make his second start this season over Bryant McFadden, who, despite not missing any practice time, is said to still be bothered by a hamstring injury.

One side wants to say with a bum wing for Collins, the starting cornerback won't matter, as long as the Steelers get pressure on the aged veteran. Another side says the Colts will bring their offense together under the lights of primetime and put together a decent performance.

PZB is in the habit of choosing not to underestimate the Steelers opponents. The Colts won't be underestimated here, either, but they could be shoddy enough for an opposing secondary to get on the turnover board for the first time this season. His colleague on the other side of the field, Ike Taylor, is playing at a very high level, and the Colts will want to pick on Gay more than him. That means he's going to see a lot of action coming his way.

That's a good thing. Despite Sapp's objections, Gay looked solid last week against Seattle's group of no-name receivers. If he plays within himself and maintains zone discipline in his assignments, the Steelers will be successful. Look for him to move inside in nickel packages, with Keenan Lewis setting up outside. With Taylor, Gay and Lewis on the field, the Colts won't likely look at Taylor's side of the field, and choose to pick on the other two. It's a good challenge for this improving pass defense.

Collins and his receivers will only have improved with another week to work, so Indianapolis's offense will be stronger than it has been. Time for the return of Big Play William Gay.

I See You

I see you, Ramon Foster. You were the Steelers starting right guard in Super Bowl XLV, only to be dumped unceremoniously this off-season, getting moved to left guard and watching Doug Legursky take your former position. You got a spot start at left guard in Week 2 - your first at that position - when Chris Kemoeatu couldn't go, and you took full advantage of your opportunity.

I see you, not just for the devastating block you threw on Isaac Redman's 20 yard touchdown run, pulling to the right side and clearing out to Seahawks defenders, but for the game as a whole. Rookie Marcus Gilbert got all the attention this week as he prepared to make his first career start. You were told at the last minute you'd make your first start at left guard. You took full opportunity of it as well.

Redman's touchdown may be the finest play the Steelers run all season. There wasn't only your block, WR Hines Ward stoned FS Earl Thomas - who showed why he'll be the NFC's starting free safety in the Pro Bowl this year - finally stopping him from making a play in run support. Gilbert sealed off two backside defenders as well. But you're the one who stood out tallest.

Key Stats

  • WR Mike Wallace has five consecutive 100-yard receiving games in the regular season
  • The Colts have two touchdowns this season, and are 5-for-23 (21.7 percent) on third down
  • James Farrior is the only Steelers player has ever played against the Colts without Peyton Manning under center. He did so his rookie year, 1997, with the Jets. 
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