How many of you remember the 1995 AFC Championship game? I know I do. It’s the first thought that comes into my mind when I hear the Colts are playing the Steelers. I really hate Kordell Stewart still to this day, and I wish Aaron Bailey would have been able to jump just a few inches higher. However, times have changed. The Steelers are no longer the perennial powerhouse they once where in my younger years. They may not have Greg Lloyd, Levon Kirkland, Yancey Thigpen or Neil O’Donnell, but they still have weapons on the field.
The Colts have only defeated the Steelers twice since that AFC Championship game and all but one have been very close. At this point we’re all saying “Nick Harper, run the other way!!!”
In 2014, things are complety differeny. The Colts have the dominant defense coming into this game and the top-ranked offense in the NFL. The Steelers are not bottom dwellers either. Their offense, per NFL.com, is ranked 8th in total offense and is 9th in rushing with 128.6 yard/game. That may strike fear in some Colts fans since our rush defense ranks 24th in the NFL per NFL.com. They are only giving up just over 96 yards a game but their total rushing attempts against them is very low allowing for the low yardage.
There are a few things in the game the Colts MUST do if they want to keep the winning streak going:
Contain Antonio Brown
Brown is 2nd in the NFL for total receiving yards and yards/game to go along with his 5 touchdowns on the season. He is a speedster with great hands. Vontae Davis and Greg Toler have been almost lights out for most of the season, but both are prone to being burnt on fly routes as they struggle to keep up with speed receivers at times. Roethlisberger will be looking at Brown early and often to get their team off on the right foot. Davis and Toler are going to have to shine against a player of Brown’s caliber. If they can shut him down, Big Ben only has the underneath stuff as they don’t have another real threat at wide receiver.
Tackle Big Ben On First Contact
They call him Big Ben for a reason. He is big and strong and is magical when he is flushed from the pocket. He does a great job of keeping his eyes down field and his receivers do a great job of breaking off their routes to come back to him. If the Colts get to him, they are going to have to take him down with their first shot. If they allow him out of the pocket he will create big plays downfield as the receivers will be able to break away from the defensive backs. That is a part of the offense in Pittsburgh that is practiced and they work on broken plays. If the Colts defense tries to tackle high on Big Ben, they will bounce off and he will take off. He may be older than he once was but this isn’t a Toby Keith song. He is as good as he once was and the Colts are going to have get to him and take him down on first contact.
Contain Bell and Blount
This is a concern of mine going into Sunday. We all know what Blount did to the Colts last January in New England. He had the best game of his career and he will be looking for more. Bell is the speed back and is a great receiver out of the backfield. However, he can still get it done between the tackles. I feel the Colts run defense has been pretty solid this season even if the rankings don’t show it. This is the game that they are going to have show what they have got. They cannot allow Cheech and Chong to tear them apart up the middle or even outside. In my opinion this is the game where D’Qwell Jackson can show his worth by making sure the middle of the defense is taken care of and Walden will have to be setting the edge every play.
Don’t Allow The Aging Steelers To Set The Tone
The Steelers are getting older at key positions, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have great players on both sides of the ball. Luck has been prone to throwing high balls lately and if he lets one sail you can bet this crafty Steelers defense is going to be opportunistic. Troy Polamalu has been a killer against the Colts in his Hall of Fame career. I’m hoping that isn’t going to be the case this weekend. The Colts offense and defense (not counting the Denver game) have been able to get off to quick starts most of the season and they need to make sure the same happens this Sunday. They are going to have to stomp the gas pedal and never let up.
This is going to be a game of old foes and a lot of history. These games are never barn burners and tend to be very close. Luck needs to continue to show his dominance on the field and the Colts defense is going to have to show up like they did last week. I don’t think it will be another shutout – it would be amazing if it were – but I think the Colts defense has a great chance to show that last week was no fluke and they are here for real.
Colts: 24 Steelers: 17