Sunday, September 25, 2011

Steelers vs. Colts Tonight! ... Prime Time

Never mind Peyton Manning.  

What is interesting to Joey Porter's Pit Bulls is the fact that the Colts have been struggling for a while now: Dating back to last year's Nov. 7 loss at Philadelphia and including their playoff loss to the New York Jets, the Colts are 5-7 in their last 12 games.

So ... Joey Porter's Pit Bulls know the Steelers should beat the Manning-less Colts tonight in Indianapolis.  Yet the Colts could win this game.  They should be motivated:  On prime-time television at home in their noisy dome, they are hosting a prime-time game they absolutely must win to salvage any hope of making the playoffs.

More to the point:  Even without Manning, the Colts have a ton of veteran talent -- even if much of that talent is hurting.  Big-name players who missed practice time this past week include tight end Dallas Clark (foot), middle linebacker Gary Brackett, defensive end Dwight Freeney (abdominal) and defensive end Robert Mathis (chest).  

Even considering their injury list, the Colts could pose considerable problems for the Steelers, especially with their receivers (Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Dallas Clark) and pass rushers (Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who are always trouble).

The Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac today offers a nice analysis of key Steelers-Colts match-ups.  Schematically, he says, the Colts operate the type of spread offense that gives the Steelers problems.  

The scheme will mean little, however, if the quarterback stinks.  Backup Kerry Collins has been awful so far this season.  After two games, the Colts' offense ranks at No. 29 in the NFL in scoring, yards per game and red-zone efficiency.  Collins is No. 28 in quarterback rating, and he missed practice time this week with a sore shoulder.

For all that, as Post-Gazette columnist Gene Collier points out, Collins has won three of the four games he's started against the Steelers:

"Collins, you should recall, always performs well against the Steelers. In four career starts, he is 3-1 because he has completed 63 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and but a single pick; that is a career passer rating against Pittsburgh of 92.6, better than Ben Roethlisberger's career passer rating against the entire NFL.  But Collins retired the first week of July, and try as I might, nowhere in the Steelers 552-page media guide can I locate the club's all-time record against retired quarterbacks.  Kerry only joined Jim Caldwell's mind-bending offense exactly a month ago today, post-retirement, and it still looks a ton more challenging than sitting on the porch."

Yes, it's obvious:  Kerry Collins is not Peyton Manning.  Never mind that.  It bears repeating that the Colts have been struggling for a while now:  The Colts are 5-7 in the last 12 games.

The Steelers can't possibly lose this game.  Can they?