The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming out of their bye riding high with a 6-2 record (4-1 road record). Indianapolis is also coming in with a nice victory in Week 9 against a Watson-less Houston Texans team. The 3-6 Colts will be hosting the Steelers in an early action game and the visiting team is heavily favored in this matchup. It may sound easy for the Steelers, but beware. The Steelers are great at losing games against under .500 teams, as they lost to the Bears and won by three against Cleveland in week one. Wide receiver Martavis Bryant is back and looking to rebound, and Colts cornerback Vontae Davis was just recently released by the team after going on IR.
Below are three key matchups to watch during Sunday’s game:
T.J. Watt vs. Anthony Castonzo
Indianapolis ranks 27th in pass-blocking this season, which is actually an improvement from last season. The only bright spot on that brutal line has been their left tackle, Anthony Castonzo. He is rated as the best run-blocking left tackle in the NFL, yet this run game in Indy still struggles tremendously. Although Castonzo has been efficient in the pass game, Steelers rookie outside linebacker T.J. Watt will have something to say about that. He has produced four sacks this season from that left side. With the entire defensive line healthy and active, this will create even more chaos for that Colts line to handle.
The Steelers Secondary vs. T.Y. Hilton
Depending on where Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is on the field, his productivity is bound to change. Last week against Houston he went off. Hilton gained 175 yards on five catches and produced two touchdowns (35 YPC). He might be getting some matchup headaches this week, however, as he faces one of the top secondaries in the league. Steelers cornerback Joe Haden is targeted only 12% of the time and has yet to allow a touchdown. In the slot, cornerback Mike Hilton will be the matchup to look for. Quarterbacks average a 56.8 passer rating when targeting him and is the 3rd ranked slot corner in the league. Cornerback Artie Burns may be T.Y. Hilton’s sneaky matchup for deep balls, as Burns allows 13.4 coverage snaps per reception, which is 25th in the NFL.
Le’Veon Bell vs. Colts D-Line
This will be a very intriguing matchup to look for. You may not know it, but the Indy interior defensive line may be one of the best in the league. Johnathan Hankins and Al Woods both rank in the top-10 at run-stops this season. Not to mention Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo have the edges if Bell decides to bounce it to the outside. Luckily for Pittsburgh, they will have their complete set of starters back, including RT Marcus Gilbert. They will continue to pound it behind David DeCastro and his incredible play this season in the run-blocking. Le’Veon Bell has 30 missed tackles this season and it feels like has touched the ball more times than Ben Roethlisberger has. As much as throwing the ball may seem more favorable given the matchups, don’t be surprised for another 30-touch game for Bell.