The Week 13 game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts has the make up of a shootout. Both teams are capable of putting up points, while surrendering a tremendous amount of yards on the defensive side of the football. Sometimes key matchups boil down to one simple facet, and that is certainly the case for the Steelers preparing to face 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck on Sunday Night Football.
The Steelers, who are tied for 7th in the NFL with 30 sacks, will have to get pressure on Hasselbeck to move him from his launching point and to help throw off the timing of the Colts' plays. Getting to the quarterback might be easier than normal for the Steelers, as the Colts will be without two starting linemen in this Week 13 game. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo and right guard Hugh Thornton have both been ruled out for the Colts this week, which emphasizes some key matchups in the pressure game.
The Colts have protected the quarterback well in 2015, only surrendering 23 sacks through 11 games. For the Steelers, the absence of Castonzo will mean the combination of Jarvis Jones and James Harrison will have to win their matchups on the outside, but the absence of the starting left tackle has a ripple effect along the offensive line. With a backup tackle, the Colts will slide protection to the left side, leaving Bud Dupree and Arthur Moats with more one-on-one matchups on their side of the field. The Steelers winning these perimeter matchups could decide the outcome of the game.
Missing a right guard isn't nearly as critical as a left tackle, but for Stephon Tuitt it is important. Tuitt has proven to be a force along the defensive front 3 for the Steelers, and his ability to beat a backup guard and put interior pressure on the quarterback will be a key factor to watch in this game.
Can a game simply come down to pressuring the quarterback? Absolutely, and this will be the case for the Steelers on Sunday Night Football. Give Hasselbeck time to throw to T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Andre Johnson and it will be another long day for the porous Pittsburgh secondary. Get to Hasselbeck and you will force mistakes and misreads, both which will help the Steelers claim their 7th victory of the 2015 season. Needless to say, putting pressure on Hasselbeck is the 'X-Factor' for the Steelers in Week 13.