The Indianapolis Colts (7-6) welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) to Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday. Kenny Pickett, the Steelers’ starting quarterback, will miss the game, while the team expects pass rushers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith to return to the field this weekend.
Assessing The Injury Report Ahead Of The Colts-Steelers Week 15 Showdown
For the Colts, right tackle Braden Smith will be absent from another contest. The Auburn alum still sports a knee injury that has lingered for weeks. Furthermore, superstar running back Jonathan Taylor remains on the shelf, only two weeks removed from thumb surgery.
The good news? Rookie cornerback JuJu Brents is set to appear vs. the Steelers in Week 15. The team’s most recent second-round pick has struggled to keep the injury bug away, but all systems are a go for Saturday afternoon. Expect Brents to go toe-to-toe with George Pickens and Diontae Johnson from the opening whistle to the final one.
Stats To Monitor For The Colts
•Top 10 Pass Rushing Defense
•Bottom 3 Rushing Defense
•5th Most Points Allowed
•8th Most Points Scored
•Top 10 Pass Blocking
Stats To Monitor For The Steelers
•Top 5 Pass Rushing Defense
•Top 10 Rushing Defense
•7th Fewest Points Allowed
•5th Fewest Points Scored
•Bottom 5 Pass Blocking
How The Colts Can Win
Veteran quarterback Mitch Trubisky maintains his role as QB1 with Pickett on the mend. In limited action this season, Trubisky has already turned the ball over three times, which includes five more turnover-worthy plays in less than 100 total snaps.
The Colts must find their pass-rushing prowess this week to take advantage of such an inviting matchup. In Week 14 vs. the Bengals, Indy’s defense was completely shut out in the sack department — that cannot happen again against the Steelers.
Pressure, Pressure, And More Pressure
Step one is to pressure Trubisky as frequently as possible, using guys like Kwity Paye (7), DeForest Buckner (7), Samson Ebukam (8), and Dayo Odeyingbo (10) to tally up sack after sack. Although the casual fan may be less than enthusiastic when reading those names, the quartet has proven its ability since Week 1. It’s time to rebound after a lackluster showing.
The next part of the process is getting adequate play from the cornerback room. The boost JuJu Brents brings to the position is impossible to quantify; fellow rookie Jaylon Jones grows with each passing day. Kenny Moore II is the much-needed veteran guidance for the two youngsters. If the Colts win, these three are a key reason why.
In conclusion, the defense must also stifle the two-headed rushing attack of Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris. Ranked as the third-worst run defense (via PFF), Colts fans know those numbers don’t represent their current defensive line. Most of the damage vs. Indy came during Grover Stewart’s six-game suspension. He is fresh off a spectacular return vs. Cincinnati and looks to continue that momentum.
Can The Colts Trust QB Gardner Minshew Down The Stretch?
On offense, it’s more of a mixed bag, thanks to the turbulent play of quarterback Gardner Minshew. Although Indy is trotting out its backup in the same fashion as Pittsburgh, at least head coach Shane Steichen has had time to adjust his playbook around the career backup.
Zack Moss must carry the brunt of the load at running back, as Trey Sermon and Tyler Goodson are incapable of moving the needle in any significant way. Look for Minshew and Co. to take Watt and Highsmith out of the game as much as possible by solidifying a ground attack early on.
If the offensive line, who will see rookie Blake Freeland fill in at right tackle, can create running lanes, Moss has the talent to carve up the stacked Steelers’ unit. Once the 26-year-old ball carrier heats up, that’s when Minshew can begin targeting Michael Pittman Jr. and Josh Downs in the passing game.
Michael Pittman Jr. vs. Joey Porter Jr. Is Appointment Viewing
Pittsburgh boasts a few premier players in the secondary, headlined by All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and in-state rookie Joey Porter Jr. There will be several mono-e-mono matchups between MPJ and JPJ; get your popcorn ready!
Pittman Jr. is on a tear lately, sporting six straight games with at least eight catches. On Saturday, the Colts’ bonafide WR1 can etch his name alone in the history books. With another eight-plus-catch performance, MPJ would own the longest streak of such games in franchise history, breaking his current tie with the legendary Marvin Harrison Sr.
Mike Tomlin’s Steelers are a well-coached roster with multiple All-Pro talents and a depth chart packed to the brim with difference-makers. Snatching a victory from Pittsburgh won’t come easy, but without starting quarterback Kenny Pickett, the Colts should be the favorites at home.
The betting odds reflect that, but not nearly as much as they could. As of this writing, the Colts are a mere -120 ML favorite and only 1.5-point favorites via the spread. The bookies are basically calling it a toss-up — and perhaps it is.
But if Minshew can take care of the football and keep the offense moving at a respectable rate, it will allow the defense to pin its ears back and make Trubisky’s life a headache each time he drops back. The young Colts secondary is in a prime position to force multiple turnovers against the former No. 2 overall pick.
The Colts will squeak out a tightly-contested battle, though an offensive shootout is unlikely. The defenses will go back and forth, and ultimately, it will come down to which quarterback plays efficiently. In what is essentially a playoff preview, the losing squad will face an uphill fight to secure a postseason berth. Indy needs this win.
Colts 23 – Steelers 20
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