Another Sunday, another game day for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are currently riding a two-game winning streak, which is rather impressive considering where they have been. Entering today’s game against the Indianapolis Colts with a 3-4 record, they have a chance to return to a .500 record for the first time since before the first game was played.
Quite a bit his changed since then, of course, the most notable being the season-ending injury suffered by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, which has thrown Mason Rudolph into the spotlight. Rudolph has gone 2-2 in his four starts so far, though he was injured in one of the losses and did not have the opportunity to finish that game for himself.
The second-year slinger seemed to take some important steps forward in Monday’s win over the Miami Dolphins, that after a rough start in his first game since suffering a concussion. But the real test will be if he can duplicate that performance and even show more consistency in doing that, which is a process that starts today.
I think it goes without saying that one thing we’ll be watching out for in this contest is the deep passing game, not only how frequently the offense guns it deep, but the contexts in which they do it, the plays that they run, and obviously, the success or failure they are able to have.
That could be tied in part to whether or not they can get anything going on the ground. With both James Conner and Benny Snell injured, the load falls upon the shoulders of Jaylen Samuels, who himself is just coming back from a knee injury.
Though there are technically two other healthy halfbacks on the roster, Samuels figures to get the vast majority of touches, with a bit of work for Trey Edmunds where necessary. But what I’m really expecting to see is more four- and five-receiver sets again, perhaps even a two-tight end, three-receiver look.
Defensively, we want to see T.J. Watt keep up his level of play, which has him in the running for another Pro Bowl. The Colts will present a steeper challenge than what he faced against the Dolphins. And Bud Dupree against Anthony Castonzo…Cameron Heyward against Quenton Nelson…this could be a good one.
Conversely, the Steelers’ offensive line should be able to handle the Colts’ front line, with little to know drop-off anticipated with B.J. Finney in the starting lineup.
What will the Colts’ approach be without T.Y. Hilton? Expect a lot of work for their dual threats at tight end, Eric Ebron in particular, who had a career year in 2018 with Andrew Luck and is continuing to produce with Jacoby Brissett.
Last, but not least, considering how important it has been do their rare success so far this year, is the turnover production. Indianapolis doesn’t make a lot of unforced errors, but the Steelers have gotten at least two takeaways in each of their past six games. Can they continue getting the ball?