Written by Ryan Lippert
Heading into week nine of the NFL season, teams are trying to pull away from each other in the playoff race. This Sunday, we will have a matchup with two teams that are still very much in the playoff hunt. The Indianapolis Colts are sitting 5-2 at the top of the AFC South and are looking to create separation between themselves and the Houston Texans. On the opposite side, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 3-4 and looking to move back into the playoff picture. There is still a lot of football left to be played but there is still a lot on the line for both teams in this game. With that being said, let’s take a closer look at this exciting matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts.
Following the surprising retirement of quarterback Andrew Luck, things were not looking promising for the Indianapolis Colts. However, they have proved all doubters wrong, jumping out to a 5-2 start behind Jacoby Brisset, Brissett has proven that he is a legit starter, throwing for 1,590 yards, 14 touchdowns, and only three interceptions. He has been helped by the running game of Marlon Mack, who has proven that he can be a lead back. Mack is currently eighth in the league in rushing with 590 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
On defense, the Colts are still very talented, with young stars such as linebacker Darius Leonard and safety Malik Hooker leading the way. However, they have been in the middle of the pack from a numbers standpoint. They rank 15th in the league in total defense, allowing 349.4 yards per game and 21.6 points per game. They’re at their best ranking wise against the pass at 15th in the league, giving up 238.1 yards per game through the air. Their defense has struggled at times against the run, ranking 20th in the league in run defense, allowing 111.3 yards per game on the ground.
For the Steelers, they got off to a very rough start to the season following the injury to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. However, they have picked things up, winning their last two in a huge victory of the Los Angeles Chargers and a comeback win over the Miami Dolphins on Monday. Mason Rudolph got off to a shaky start against Miami but finally got comfortable in his first game back from his concussion, throwing for 251 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. James Conner also found his groove, rushing for 145 yards and a touchdown but unfortunately suffered an injury and will likely be out this week.
Pittsburgh has also cranked it up a notch on defense, especially since acquiring safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. They are currently tenth in the league in total defense, allowing 336.6 yards per game and 20.7 points per game. Their defense ranks 13th against the pass, allowing 233.6 yards per game. Against the run, they rank 15th, giving up 103 yards per game on the ground.
Benny Snell Jr., RB: Out (Knee-Meniscus)
James Conner, RB: Doubtful (Shoulder-AC Joint)
Ramon Foster, OG: Out (Concussion)
Roosevelt Nix, FB: Questionable (Knee)
Overview: The Steelers running game will take a huge hit as they will likely be without both Snell and Conner, along with Ramon Foster. However, Jaylen Samuels is back and is very capable of carrying the workload at running back. Trey Edmunds will serve as his backup. Foster will be replaced by B.J. Finney at left guard. Luckily, Nix was able to practice so he should be good to go.
Pierre Desir, CB: Doubtful (Hamstring)
T.Y. Hilton, WR: Out (Calf)
Malik Hooker, FS: Questionable (Knee)
Justin Houston, DE: Questionable (Calf)
Overview: Hilton will be a huge loss for the Colts this week. In his absence, Brissett will have to rely on a wide receiver core of Zach Pascal, Deon Cain, Chester Rogers, and rookie Parris Campbell, along with tight ends Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle. With Desir likely missing action, rookie Rock Ya-Sin will step in his place. Hooker and Houston have both been able to practice during the week so they are hoping to be able to go.
Juju Smith-Schuster (WR) vs Kenny Moore II (CB)
Minkah Fitzpatrick (FS) vs Jacoby Brissett (QB)
Devin Bush Jr (LB) vs Marlon Mack (RB)
Steelers Pass Rush vs Colts O-Line
Overview: Hopefully the Colts will learn from Miami’s mistakes and let their best healthy corner cover Juju throughout the game, who is coming off an impressive performance on Monday night. On the other side of the ball, Brissett will look to keep things rolling against Fitzpatrick who has been outstanding since joining the Steelers. Mack and Bush is an intriguing matchup as Mack has been great running the ball so far and Bush has shown us why the Steelers traded up to draft him. Lastly, the Steelers have had a very impressive pass rush, for the most part, this season but they have yet to face an offensive line as good as the Colts have.
As I already mentioned, this is a very big game for both teams. Regardless of the difference in records, these teams are pretty even from a talent standpoint. With that being said, I see this game coming down to the fourth quarter. Brissett will make plays to keep the Colts alive and I believe Rudolph will do just the same on the opposite side with Jaylen Samuels having a big game on the ground. I have this game coming down to the Steelers scoring a go-ahead touchdown in the final two minutes and their defense stepping up with a huge stop on the final drive to win this game and keep their playoff hopes alive
Final Score Prediction: Steelers 28, Colts 24