The Steelers are coming off a nice win over the hapless Browns and on a short week, head to Indy for a Thanksgiving night game. There are still a lot of questions regarding the 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers and we fans are left wondering which team will show up from week to week. I’m going to walk through a couple scenarios that could lead to the Steelers going one game over .500 or one game under.
Why the Steelers will win: Ben Roethlisberger and his receiving corps. The Colts are giving up almost 300 yards per game in the air. If anyone not named Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell cares to step up this week (Ladarius Green, Eli Rogers and Cobi Hamilton, I’m talking to you) Ben should find success indoors against a secondary that can’t seem to stop the aerial attack. Roethlisberger is healthy and coming off a win where he didn’t need to throw a ton, instead relying on the run game to batter the Browns. In the last two meetings against the Colts Roethlisberger has owned that secondary to the tune of 10 touchdown passes, almost 900 yards and zero interceptions. Sammie Coates was a full practice participant on Tuesday, but I don’t know if that gets him more than a special teams helmet on Thursday. I hope he does crack the starting lineup again, as this will give Ben the deep threat that has been lacking since Coates broke two fingers several weeks ago.
Don’t get me wrong, here. I don’t think the Steelers should ignore the run. In fact, the more touches Le’Veon Bell gets, the easier it will be for the passing game to thrive. The Colts will have to try and stop Bell and if their front seven can’t get the job done (let’s face it not many teams can) then they will have to bring safety help and #7 can play action the Colts to death.
On defense, the secondary has to keep T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief in front of them while the front seven should find ways to get at either Andrew Luck or Scott Tolzien. I believe the Steelers’ defense will have some swagger after the success against Cleveland and Keith Butler will dial up another recipe for mixing up blitzes to confuse whoever is under center. Artie Burns is starting to get comfortable in this defense and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make a splash play again this week.
Why the Colts will win: The Steelers’ offense flips back to the same listless group fans have seen too often this season. It starts up front, and the men on the offensive line need to come ready to play well throughout the game in hostile territory. In order for #7 and #26 to have success, the line needs to bring their best every down. If the line struggles, the offense will be looking at too many three-and-outs. If Ben is off his game, like he has been a few times this season, the Steelers offense will turn the ball over to the Colts and struggle in the field position battle.
Team discipline on defense. Penalties and big plays against the 2016 Steelers’ defense have both been happening way too often. Granted this isn’t the Dallas Cowboys, but against lesser teams the defense has been caught out of position too often this season and the opposing offense made them pay. That and the fact that this defense has had it’s share of knucklehead mistakes that turn into costly penalties gives me pause. I would love to believe that this defense has turned the corner from some of this, but they’ll need to string together more than one game against quality opponents to make me a true believer. If the Pittsburgh defenders don’t have their collective heads together, the Colts could find themselves in good shape regarding both field position and their ability to keep Roethlisberger and company off the field.
When the second half clock is at 00:00 I think the Steelers will walk out of Lucas Oil Stadium with a win, but the Colts are not the Browns and Pittsburgh will need to stay focused to get this win. The coaches will have to put in solid game plans and put the players in position to be successful. It won’t matter who the Colts march out at quarterback if the Steelers’ defense lacks focus and discipline. The Pittsburgh offense should be able to put up 30 points on the Indianapolis defense, but that won’t guarantee a win unless the Steelers defense does their part.