It is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ turn in Week 11 to do the unthinkable. What is this feat I speak of? Try preparing for an NFL game on a Thursday night after playing on the road the previous Sunday.
Every team is forced to play at least one Thursday game throughout the season, and despite the quality of the product being much lower than the usual game day action, the league puts dollar signs above anything else.
Nonetheless, as the Steelers prepare to face the Indianapolis Colts in Week 10 at Lucas Oil Stadium, and know they will host the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night at Heinz Field in Week 11, should it impact the way they handle their business this Sunday?
Granted, the game will dictate a lot of what the team will, or won’t, do, but thanks to some loyal readers who pointed out this fact on other threads, Mike Tomlin, and his staff, might have to be careful with how they deploy a player like Le’Veon Bell.
Bell has been the team’s cash cow throughout the first half of the regular season, in more ways than one. Bell is averaging 24.25 carries a game in 2017, and that is with a very slow start to the season in regards to attempts. Let’s also not forget his play in the passing game. Bell is averaging just above 4 receptions a game, but is often targeted more than most wide receivers on the team’s roster not named Antonio Brown.
Bell is the main cog in the offense, but should the Steelers be thinking about utilizing James Conner and Terrell Watson in Week 10 more, to preserve Bell for the Thursday night affair with the Titans awaiting?
It should be noted the Colts’ defense is currently ranked 17th in the league against the run, surrendering 113.9 yards per game on average, but if the Steelers are the team-to-beat as many believe they are, they certainly should be able to impose their will on the Colts defense, regardless of who is carrying the football.
In my opinion, the Steelers would be wise to use more of James Conner in this Week 10 matchup. Conner should be ridiculously fresh, only 18 rushes for 89 yards throughout the first half of the season, and has proven in his limited repetitions he is more than capable of running the football well in the NFL.
With that said, if you’ve watched how Todd Haley and Mike Tomlin deploy Bell, I wouldn’t expect anything less than another 30+ touches game from No. 26, despite the short week awaiting them following the road trip this Sunday.
Ultimately it will come down to the game itself. If the Steelers are in a contest with the Colts, similar to the one they had with the Lions in Week 8, Bell won’t be leaving the field at all. The team needs to win, and he is your best offensive weapon. However, what will be worth watching, is if Tomlin pulls Bell early in the second half if the team has a sizable lead over the Colts on the road.