Division Preview: Steelers & Colts
By Chris Pokorny, PFCritics WriterJanuary 14, 2006
This Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers will take on the Indianapolis Colts for the third game of the 2005-2006 NFL divisional playoffs. Both teams met each other earlier this season, in a game that the Colts completely dominated on Monday Night. The Colts utilized their running game with Edgerrin James and rushed for over 100 yards, a rarity against the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense. Ben Roethlisberger was coming off of an injury and did not have the same mobility that he is capable of. Many think that the Colts are the best team in the league without question, but the Steelers have been very good in the past two months. Now that these two teams meet in the second round of the playoffs, who will come out on top?
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Roethlisberger: 17 of
26 for 133 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions. 3 carries, 21 yards.
Note: Roethlisberger struggled when he faced the Colts during the
season, but he was coming off of an injury. Although the Colts' defense
deserves credit for shutting him down, Roethlisberger was not in sync
the way he has been in recent weeks. He completely carved apart the
Bengals' defense last week, eliminating any possible playoff jitters he
245 yards, 2 touchdowns, interception.
Note: Manning has had quite a bit of playoff experience the past
few years. Although he has not made it to the Super Bowl, he performs
well in every playoff game except when he faces the Patriots. Manning
had no problems against the Steelers defense the first time around, but
he knows that he cannot stand in the pocket all day long. His offensive
line is very well rested though, and will give him the time he needs to
make a play.
Note: The Steelers were not able to get the running game going
against the Colts. Parker is meant to be a fast running back, but the
Colts' defensive linemen are so quick that it's hard for Parker to make
a move. The Steelers offensive line cannot overpower the Colts, which is
a reason why Bettis was not able to get past the line of scrimmage very
29 carries, 124
yards, 4.3 avg.
Note: The Colts didn't need any other running back but James to
dominate the Steelers in the running game, ended Pittsburgh's long
streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher. James didn't have to break a
big run, he simply continued to pound and pound away, running the clock
down and frustrating the Steelers defense. Of course, it didn't hurt
that Manning was picking apart the Steelers defense as well.
3 catches, 28 yards, 1 touchdown.
Cedrick Wilson: 3 catches, 44 yards.
Heath Miller: 4 catches, 26 yards.
Note: All of the Steelers receivers were held in check pretty
evenly. Ward was only able to pull in three catches, and the tight end
Miller was limited to short-yardage plays only. Although the Steelers
receivers had success against the Bengals last week, they'll have to
depend on the big play off of play-action if they want to hurt the
Note: With the amount of carries that James had, Manning mainly
focused on getting the ball to his primary receivers - Harrison and
Wayne. The Colts opened the game with a huge connection to Harrison, and
never looked back. Anyone on the Colts offense can have a big day when
Manning is your quarterback.
Note: The Steelers were able to get minimal pressure on Manning
and intercept him once, but they simply could not stop the running game.
They did not control the tempo of the game whatsoever, which takes away
their intimidating approach that makes them so dangerous.
Note: The Colts defense stopped the Steelers running game, which
threw off their entire gameplan. They were able to take advantage of
Roethlisberger's rust, forcing him into 2 picks and sacking him three
times. They are all well rested and should have a lot of energy right
off the bat.
Reed has been consistent for the Steelers most of the year, and
shouldn't have any weather problems inside the dome.
Note: Antwaan Randle El has been a great punt returner in year's
past, but the Colts are pretty good on special teams coverage.
Mike Vanderjagt: The Colts can
always rely on Vanderjagt, who holds the NFL record for most consecutive
Note: Nothing too special on the kick return game, but nothing
negative on the same note.
This week is all
about Roethlisberger bouncing back. Although the Steelers defense could
not stop the Colts the first time around, Big Ben can use his mobility
to make a play with his feet. Roethlisberger will not be able to make
enough plays from the pocket, so the Steelers must find a way to move
the pocket to the outside. It'll be tough to do that with all of the
speed on the Colts' defense.
The key to the Steelers offense has always been the running game. The
Steelers can win a game without the passing game working better than
they can when the running game doesn't work. They have gone to a new
approach this season with a fast-paced back in Willie Parker. The Colts
were too much for the Steelers offensive line the last time around, so
the Steelers will have to formulate some different schemes for this
Defensively, the Steelers are on a roll. Although they were fortunate
that the Bengals suffered an injury to Carson Palmer last week, they did
a fair job of making sure Jon Kitna did not light them up. Troy Polamalu
and the Steelers' secondary will be the key for the defense. Although
James can dominate the game, if you take Manning off of his game early,
a turnover could give the Steelers a two possession lead at some point.
We have seen
Manning light up the Denver Broncos defense every year in the playoffs,
so it'll be interesting to see how he does against the Steelers. He had
no problems against them earlier in the year, and has never shown any
"rust" just because the Colts were able to relax in the final few weeks
of the regular season. He does not like to get sacked, and it'll come
tough for the Steelers since the Colts' offensive line is very well
It's not just Edgerrin James that beats the Steelers, because he
couldn't get it done without the offensive line and Manning making so
many audibles at the line of scrimmage. He will see another heavy
workload in this game, but not as much as he did in the regular season.
The Colts are likely to pass just a little bit more to counter the
increased scoring by the Steelers offense.
The Colts defense must rattle Ben Roethlisberger with their front four.
The Colts are talented enough to shut down Willie Parker, but
Roethlisberger still has the ability to improve his gameplay with more
mobility. If the Colts rattle him in the first quarter, they can take
away any chance of the Steelers coming away with a victory almost
AFC Divisional Prediction
Winner - Indianapolis Colts
There is a reason
that the Colts could have finished the season 16-0 if they really wanted
to. There's a reason that the Colts already dominated the Steelers once
this year. There's a reason why they have the best record in the NFL.
The reason is simple: they are the best team in football.
Colts 31, Steelers 13.