The bye week always feels better when it comes on the heels of a three-game winning streak. The Pittsburgh Steelers only once prior in Mike Tomlin’s tenure had been able to enter their bye week having won at least three games in a row, the other time being in 2009, winners of four in a row at that time.
But rest and relaxation is now a thing of the past—at least until they get to their first-round bye in the playoffs. It’s back to football, and in just a short while, they will face off against an underpowered and understaffed Indianapolis Colts team that has barely won three games against poor competition this season. Which, for many of you, of course, means a guaranteed loss in your minds.
The only victories that the Colts have this season are against the Browns and 49ers, the two teams with no wins in 2017, and the Texans, in the first game after Deshaun Watson was put on injured reserve. Literally, these are the only teams Indianapolis has beaten this year.
But that doesn’t mean the Steelers can’t lose. Granted, they should win. They probably will win. It is within the realm of possibility that they can lose if a series of bad things happen, but it would be a surprise to non-cynical people if they don’t.
The Colts don’t have much of a threat on offense outside of T.Y. Hilton, and Jacoby Brissett is frankly not Matthew Stafford. I would expect the pair of Artie Burns and Joe Haden—and occasionally Mike Hilton—to be able to hold him and his 20-plus yards-per-catch statistic in check.
Outside of that, running back Marlon Mack has been able to break off a couple of runs, but doesn’t appear to be equipped at the moment to be used as a featured back. Frank Gore is still Frank Gore, but a closer, less effective one.
For the first time all season, the Steelers should field their intended starting 11 on defense in a game that they also finish. Having the front seven fully intact should really help prevent some of the leaks they’ve had against the run this season.
Offensively, I would expect Antonio Brown to have a big game if Ben Roethlisberger can hit him. the last time the Colts were without Vontae Davis, the pair attacked the replacement with great effectiveness.
I also think the middle of the field is going to be worked a lot in this game, with Vance McDonald catching a few passes. Now finally healthy and in the role the Steelers envisioned for him when they first acquired him, he should begin to earn his contract in the second half of the season.
Outside of that, the Steelers offensive line will see some familiar faces in the trenches, including Al Woods, Margus Hunt, Jabaal Sheard, and Barkevious Mingo, all of whom played in the AFC North, Woods with the Steelers. We’ll see how what knowing your enemy gets you.