Eyes in the Backfield-Steelers

5 Things to Watch for During Sunday’s Colts-Steelers Game

It’s a Sunday night game at the Alamo…err, the Luke!

Last week’s game went according to script right up until the final minutes. Unfortunately Kerry couldn’t keep calm, and the Browns carried a win out of Indianapolis. With the injury list piling up, the Colts have to be feeling outnumbered and outgunned this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here’s what to watch for:

1. Watch for lots of yellow and black. Prepare for it now. The Luke is going to be full of Steelers fans. Tickets are going for well below face, and scores of Colts fans are selling seats. Night games are especially rough for working people, and this represents one of the rare opportunities fans will have to get close to their money back on their seats this year. It’s not bandwagon jumping, it’s a conditioned response.

For years now, the Colts’ management has conditioned fans that games without Manning are meaningless. This front office has sought to extract a football advantage by tanking preseason games and the final regular season games when they have everything clinched. I’ve defended the football sense of those moves, but they have nothing to complain about now. Colts fans know the season is over. When the game is meaningless, you are going to endure bad football. The Curtis Painter Incident might have been defensible from a football standpoint, but it was sloppy and engendered bad feelings from fans. Every fan who gave his kids tickets for Christmas that year thinking they were getting four quarters of Manning got screwed.

Management told the fans, “We don’t care about anything but winning the Super Bowl. You shouldn’t either”. That’s fine. It’s a defensible position. The Colts can’t be mad now, however, when the fans say, “We don’t care about anything but winning the Super Bowl. You walked out on us. We are walking out on you.”

Colts fans aren’t jumping off the bandwagon. They are just doing what management taught them to do. If you see 20,000 season ticket cancellations, then we can talk about bandwagon jumping. All this is simple economics mixed with a Pavlovian response.

People work hard for their money. They have a right to spend it and earn it however they want. Never rip a fan for trying to make money on tickets. The team wasn’t there for them. It’s not fair to ask them to be there for the team.

2. Watch what could have been. The Steelers really aren’t playing well right now, and if Manning was playing, I’d be more than a little optimistic about the Colts chances. Colts fans know that Kerry Collins has gone down 5 times in two games, but many don’t realize that Roethlisberger has been sacked SIX times in two games. The Steelers have young and troubled line, and other circumstances, I’d say they were ripe for the picking. In many ways, Steelers fans have to be more nervous than Colts fans. Indy fans can point to a big reason why their team is 0-2. Steelers fans don’t have that excuse.  They aren’t running or passing well early in the year, and I expect the Indy defense to hold up reasonably well, if given half a chance. The problem is that Dwight Freeney may not play on Sunday night, and he’s as important to the Colts defense as Manning is to the offense. He makes the whole thing work. The gap between what is and what could be has never been wider.


3. Watch Link and Woodley. Or don’t. Just cover your eyes and pray for Kerry Collins’ eternal soul. The Steelers have racked up six sacks already this year, and Collins has taken five. There’s no question that keeping Collins upright is going to be a challenge. The Colts did a nice job getting Collins to move in the pocket against Cleveland. They are facing a much better pass rush this week though. Honestly, I don’t know if Collins will make it all the way through this game. Don’t be surprised if he gets hurt by half time and Curtis Painter takes over. Now that I think about it, pray for all our eternal souls.

4. Watch for four yards a carry. The Colts have bettered four yards a carry in both of their first two games. From 2008-2010, the Colts have only had 15 total games that met that mark. They haven’t had more than 6 such games in a season since 2006. There’s a good chance this is the best run blocking line the Colts have had since Tarik Glenn retired. If the Colts can get some good ground yards working, they may be able to limit Collins’ throws and stay in the game. Or at the very least, they’ll give us something to feel good about in an otherwise bleak season.

5. Watch for a slaughter. This game won’t be close, and it won’t be pretty. Honestly, it was hard to come up with five things to say about this game. I can’t see Indy staying in it at all. I’ll be in my seats. I’m going to yell my lungs out. I love my team. That doesn’t change what is going to happen. Steelers 31 Colts 10.