Matchup to Watch: Steelers vs Colts
Throughout the Pittsburgh Steelers season I will be doing a weekly piece on an intriguing matchup to watch for each game. The focus will be on choosing important battle for the upcoming game and give you some background information that could be something to keep an eye on come game time. For example, it could focus on key players on each team that will be going head to head or how a defense will try to stop a specific player.
Signs of Life
Against the Miami Dolphins a heartbeat was detected in the Steelers passing game. It was touch and go for a while but about mid second quarter Mason Rudolph and the receivers started to find their groove. The results were promising with Diontae Johnson and Rudolph setting new career high for yardage and trust has begun to take hold between QB and WR’s.
This week that heartbeat must continue against the AFC South leaders the Indianapolis Colts and the Steelers will be without some key components. Guard Ramon Foster has already been ruled out after being in concussion protocol this week. RB James Conner is doubtful and Benny Snell is out after surgery this week. That leaves Jaylen Samuels to handle RB1 duties and he has done it before. He received the starting nod in three games in 2018 and had a great game against New England sandwiched between two solid games.
In my opinion, the passing game needs to be productive again this week and I feel they should be able to throw against the Colts. Who do they target this week?
Colts DB Rock Ya-Sin vs the Steelers WR’s
The Colts defense overall ranks just about in the middle of the pack in passing yards allowed at about 238 yards per game and touchdowns allowed with 11. Those are solid numbers however they only have 4 interceptions and have allowed passes to be completed at a 68.5% rate which is 26th in the league. There are completions to be had against this defense.
Rookie Rock Ya-Sin was drafted in the second round is a starting defensive back for the Colts and a member of the ALL-NAME team. He has started 5 of 7 games and has played 100% of the defensive snaps in 3 of the last 4. Rookies are going to have their struggles and he is no different so let’s look at some of the numbers.
Through 7 games Ya-Sin has allowed 24 completions in just 31 attempts for a 77.4 completion rate. The receivers have gained 373 yards on those receptions for a 15.5 yards per completion average. He has also allowed 105 yards after the catch. The passer rating when targeting Ya-Sin is 138.2. He has zero interceptions; just one pass defensed and has allowed 2 TDs.
For comparison I looked up DeAndre Baker who went late in the first round and Byron Murphy who went one pick ahead of Ya-Sin. Each of them has similar number in starts and was similar in each of the stats I mentioned. So it’s a rookie thing.
To add to Ya-Sin’s struggles he has been flagged 7 times (6 accepted) and all of those have come in the last 3 games. Last week against Denver alone he was flagged 5 times (4 accepted), twice for pass interference and 3 times for defensive holding. So if you add those 6 accepted penalties to the completions, he has allowed positive yardage to be gained by the offense on 30 of 37 attempts (81%).
Teammates Kenny Moore (63.9%, 0 penalties) and Pierre Desir (65.6%, 1 penalty) have been a bit stingier when they have been targeted.
What’s on Film?
Here are some plays to give you a look at Ya-Sin.
Vs Denver, Ya-Sin (34) is the corner to the left across from Courtland Sutton (14). He’s shades to the outside at a 45 degree angle. Sutton is going to run and Dig route and from this alignment is able to open up space and run away from Ya-Sin.
Vs Houston, Ya-Sin is to the top of the screen across from Kenny Stills (12). Ya-Sin is going to drop his inside foot and open his hips while Stills is going to run a deep route across the field. When he makes his break, there’s 5 yards of space between them. The Steelers ran this route combination against the Bengals for a 43 yard TD to Johnson.
Vs Houston, again against Stills it’s a Go route and Ya-Sin is in pretty good position and has the ball in his sights but can make the play on the ball.
At Kansas City, on the right side over Demarcus Robinson (11) who’s in the tight slot. Robinson is going to run a deep curl behind the LB’s. Ya-Sin hold’s him pretty much through the entire route and still can’t stop the completion.
Vs Oakland, this is Zone coverage. He is lined up outside the TE’s at the top of the screen. There is going to be a run fake to the middle and Ya-Sin takes 2 steps forward and it costs him. The TE Foster Moreau (87) is going to run a Corner route and Ya-Sin is a half-step late getting there.
Vs Oakland and he has Tyrell Williams (16) one on one. It’s a Go route and Williams will run right by him. Ya-Sin again is holding the receiver and leaps but can get his hands on the ball. This one is dropped but you can see the opportunity was there.
Pittsburgh should have chances to get Ya-Sin in one on one situations and need to take advantage. Routes to the inside where he has to chase and the go routes will be opportunities to make big plays. The Colts have nearly the same point differential as the Steelers so expect a close game.
One splash play could be the difference.