As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) today’s game. Three things that need to happen for them to end up on the right side of the score and vice versa in this 2020 Week 16 game between the Steelers and Indianapolis Colts
My prediction is at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
1. Roethlisberger Works The Middle Of Field
I like borrowing my X Factor topics for these ones. If there’s a week to attack between the numbers, this is it. Colts play plenty of Tampa 2/Cover 2 defense. Split safeties where it’s harder to throw down the sideline. This is the week to get Eric Ebron and/or JuJu Smith-Schuster going in the intermediate/deep middle. The Colts have talent here, NCB Kenny Moore is one of the top slot guys in the game and Darius Leonard is a fantastic MIKE linebacker, so I don’t want to pretend this is easy real estate to pick up. But this is where coverage is likely to dictate. And this struggling offense needs to make plays here.
If you want to take shots down the sideline, bring in FB Derek Watt. Colts’ defense runs Cover 1 against it and that’ll open up one-on-one chances on the outside for guys like James Washington and Chase Claypool.
2. Alex Highsmith Steps Up
We know TJ Watt is always going to be counted on – and at this point, expected – to be a consistent source of pass rush. Indy being without RT Braden Smith makes his matchup all the better. Alex Highsmith has to do the same on the opposite side since the Colts are also without LT Anthony Castonzo. Highsmith has played well overall filling in for Bud Dupree. But I want this to be a big game for him. Strip-sack-fumble kind of game.
3. Pittsburgh Gets A Yard
Something they haven’t done for the last two years. Worst 3rd/4th and 1 offense in football since 2019, barely converting half the time. Run game doesn’t have to be great, not even good, but it was to be situational. And aside from the first month of the season, this has been a terrible situational running football team.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. The Defense Can’t Force Turnovers
Pittsburgh’s openly admitted the need to get back to taking the football away. Just two of them the last three games, both coming in the Week 14 loss to Buffalo. It’ll be an extra challenge to get right here given their opponent. The Colts do a fantastic job protecting the football. Just one fumble on run plays this season. Twelve turnovers as an offense, tied for third fewest in football. Philip Rivers is making great decisions, backs are showing good security, and they haven’t given the ball up once during their three-game win streak.
2. Mike Tomlin’s FG Decisions Again Limit Offense
No Chris Boswell today for the Steelers. Matthew Wright will make his second career start. In his first game against Washington, Mike Tomlin lived in his fears and opted against attempting a 45 yard field goal late in the game. He went for it on 4th and 1, Ben Roethlisberger threw incomplete to RB Anthony McFarland on a sluggo, and we’re all worse off for enduring that. Will Tomlin have the same concern with Wright? Not an ideal spot for a young kicker attempting field goals in Heinz Field in December. At least the weather will be decent.
3. DeForest Buckner Rules The Day
The Colts have a solid pass rush up front. Three different players with 7.5 sacks. But no one worries more than DeForest Buckner. He’s big, long, and though has just one pass deflection this season, I can definitely see him get his hand up in some throwing lanes today. Every defender knows the best way to play Ben Roethlisberger. Not always going to get to him. So read his shoulders and get your hand up in throwing lanes, especially on third and short. David DeCastro is going to need to play his best ball against him.
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