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5 questions with Colts SB Nation site Stampede Blue

We sat down with Stampede Blue editor Josh Wilson to go over all things Colts heading into the Steelers' Week 8 game vs. Indianapolis.

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The Colts' offense goes without saying. It was clear they would be a high-end unit this year. I can't tell whether this defense is overachieving or underachieving so far this season. Which is it?

If we're talking about what the expectations were for the defense, then they've absolutely been overachieving.  Looking at the money they have invested or things like that makes the picture a little less clear, but I think the defense has overachieved greatly so far in regards to what they were expected to do.

You're right - many expected the Colts' offense to be great. But the defense recently has been terrific, and that has been a pleasant surprise.  I think the biggest surprise with the defense by far has been their pass rush. Last season, Robert Mathis accounted for nearly half of the team's sack production, which is an insane amount for a single player.  Mathis hasn't played a single snap this year between his suspension and then his torn Achilles, and in the first two weeks of the season the Colts generated next to no pressure on Peyton Manning and Nick Foles. Yet somehow, their pass rush has exploded in the past five weeks and they're now third in the league in sacks with 21.

Head coach Chuck Pagano and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky deserve a ton of credit for this, as they've gotten the most out  of their players and they've set them up to succeed with their blitz calls. The players also deserve credit too, however. Defensive lineman Cory Redding has had a great season, outside linebacker Bjoern Werner has really improved recently, and a host of other Colts have shown they can get to the passer when their number is called in Manusky's blitz package. That has been the most surprising part of a Colts defense that has greatly exceeded expectations so far.

What kind of impact has the arrest and subsequent suspension of Colts owner Jim Irsay for OWI made on Colts fans and the Indianapolis community? Do they still support him? Is he building that trust back?

I want to be careful with my answer here because I don't want to condone what Irsay did at all (because it was wrong), but I really don't think Colts fans or those in Indianapolis have changed their opinions that much on him.

Many still remember his father, Robert, who had huge struggles with alcohol addiction, and remember when Jim came forward with his own addictions - and at the time, success - years ago. The rest of the country sees the mugshot of the owner and hears the stories of his addictions, thinking of him as some terrible owner unworthy of having a pro football team. But Colts fans and those in Indianapolis see him as someone different - an incredibly generous man who has done a lot for the city and for his franchise who has deep-rooted struggles with addiction.

He has always been generous, and it has been said that if you've attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or other treatment meetings for any length of time, odds are you'd have met Jim Irsay in them and he would be there to support and encourage others. He has always been generous with his money as well, and there are plenty of stories about that. Those who have worked and played for him have great things to say about the owner.

Ultimately, what Irsay did in getting arrested for OWI is unacceptable and he needed to be punished for it. But I think those in Indianapolis see more than that, and they saw a man in need of help. Irsay got that help, and hopefully he can stay clean now. He already looks much better, and hopefully that continues. While not excusing Irsay's actions at all, I don't really think Colts fans or Indy residents have had a huge change of opinion on the owner.

Which was the worse Colts loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the 1995 AFC Championship game or the 2005 AFC Divisional game? (sorry, had to)

Yeah, thanks a lot for this question. Just what I wanted to think about today... (not). I think they're both still very painful memories for Colts fans. To come so close in both seasons and fall short carries a certain sting with it that remains, and it's hard to pick which one was the more painful, but I'll say it was the 2005 one. Here's why:

In 1995, the Colts had an unexpected run of success to the AFC Championship game. Many Colts fans will still rank that season among the top of their list in terms of seasons that they had the most fun watching, but it was unexpected. So yes, while the loss and in particular the way the Colts lost was incredibly painful, there was still that feeling of pride for the team in that they went much further than they were expected to.

On the flip side, 2005 was the complete opposite. Many still feel like that was the best Colts team overall that they had in the Peyton Manning era. They were 14-2 and the runaway favorites in the AFC and in the entire NFL, really, to win the Super Bowl.  This team had Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and one of the league's best offenses and defenses. And they fell flat in their first playoff game before mounting a comeback, only for Mike Vanderjagt missed that field goal. Game over.

The reason I say that loss was more painful to Colts fans than the 1995 one is because in 2005 the Colts were a great team expected to win the Super Bowl but came up short. In 1995, they were an underdog that greatly exceeded expectations. Both were tough losses, but I think the 2005 one was tougher because of what the teams were expected to do.

At the height of their primes, catching passes from Andrew Luck today, which receiver would you rather have, Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne?

Hey, I like this question a lot better than the previous one! Both Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne were/are great. I think that both deserve to be and will eventually be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and I think the numbers back up each case. The way I say it is that I think Harrison was the better receiver but Reggie the better Colt. To have Wayne re-sign with the team despite Peyton Manning being released, the head coach and general manager fired, and a complete rebuilding process spoke volumes about Wayne and cemented his place as a fan-favorite forever. He's quite possibly the most popular current Colt, perhaps even more so than Andrew Luck, Robert Mathis, Pat McAfee, or others. He's a leader and a great receiver, and I think he's a greater all-time Colt (or as Chuck Pagano would say, a horseshoe guy) than Marvin, but I'd take Harrison as a receiver.

I think he has become underrated today and many forget just how dominant he was. I've posted a couple of different articles in the last year of NFL corners saying he's the toughest they've ever defended. He just had an incredible skill set and talent level, and for many years he was the only reliable target that Manning had. Both Harrison and Wayne will go down as all-time greats, but if I had to choose one for Andrew Luck to throw to in their prime, I'd say Marvin Harrison - though it's not as easy of a decision as some (including myself) would have thought.

Evaluate the signing of Hakeem Nicks based on his performance so far this season. Good gamble on a team-friendly contract, or waste of roster spot that could be occupied by someone else?

It was a good signing by the Colts to bring in Hakeem Nicks on a one-year, $4 million deal, but so far we haven't really seen it on the field. That doesn't mean it was a bad decision, however. The Colts desperately needed another wide receiver, which we saw all too clearly when Reggie Wayne went down last year. So the Colts signed the veteran Hakeem Nicks and drafted Donte Moncrief.

The Colts basically signed Nicks hoping that he could revert back to his form of a few years ago, and if not it was only a one-year deal and they wouldn't have lost much on it. They drafted Moncrief hoping that he could be a long-term option to play alongside T.Y. Hilton for years to come. So far, Nicks has been underwhelming. He does have two touchdown receptions, but he has seen his playing time continue to decrease as we see him struggle to create separation at times and we really see a lack of timing with Andrew Luck.

Moncrief, on the other hand, has impressed and is slowly beginning to get more playing time. There's a chance that we'll see both players significantly this Sunday against the Steelers if Wayne can't go, and Nicks will get the first shot at playing as the number two receiver. I still think there's some hope for him, but he has been a disappointment this year. That doesn't mean it was a bad signing, however, because it was a low-risk but high-reward deal. Sometimes those don't work out (and it's too early to say for sure with Nicks but so far it hasn't' really worked out), but they're still good moves to make. That's the way I see the deal with Nicks.

Check out Stampede Blue for all the news surrounding the Colts heading into this Week 8 match-up with the Steelers, and follow him on Twitter @StampedeBlue

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