A quick aside from looking ahead to the Jets game to mention that Colts pass-rush extraordinare, Dwight Freeney, is out for the year after sustaining a LisFranc injury in his left foot against the San Diego Chargers Sunday night that will reqire surgery.
The loss of Freeney only compunds what is already a grim injury situation for the Colts. Offensive linemen, Dallas Clark, and Marvin Harrison have all missed time. Fortunately for the Colts however, the bulk of the injuries have remained on the offensive side of the ball, where they still have Manning to keep things righted. Until now.
The loss of Freeney means the Colts will have trouble bringing pressure out of their 3-4 defense, which in theory should give opposing QBs time to hit the short stuff that Dungy's Cover-2 typically gives offenses. If the Colts are forced to adjust their scheme, the running game could again open up against the Colts.
As for the rest of the starters missing, Clark and Harrison are expected to return soon, but in the case of Marvin, who knows if he'll be the same receiver again this year. You just never know with knee injuries, and for a guy like Harrison who relies on making precise, sharp cuts, it's too early to say that he'll be able to be the same precision receiver he has been for so long prior to the injury.
So what does this mean for the Steelers? Nothing yet, but as of right now, the Steelers edge out the Colts by merit of their superior AFC record, for the #2 seed in the AFC . It's too early to break down each team's schedule, but I will say that Indy has a fairly easy road to hoe to finish off the regular season with 12 or 13 wins. However, if the Steelers can stick within a game of the Colts heading into the final couple of weeks, Indy will be forced to play their top guys in hopes of securing home-field at the RCA Dome until the AFC Championship game.
Now, we know that the Steelers can win three games on their way to the Super Bowl, even if all three are on the road, as they demonstrated in 2005. But we'd be kidding ourselves if we didn't admit that it'd be huge to get a BYE in the first round, then play at Heinz in the Divionsal Round. We don't wish for injuries around here, but now that the Colts have lost the highest-paid defensive player in the league, it's not unfair for us to be pleased that the Steelers suddenly have the upper-hand in the race for the #2 seed in the AFC.