The Pittsburgh Steelers are not exactly unfamiliar with playing quality offensive lines. After all, they have arguably two of the top 10—if not top 5—offensive lines in the NFL within the AFC North in the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns, at least when they are healthy.
The Indianapolis Colts, however, will pose a major challenge as well, even if they received a bit of bad news Friday. The team announced that it placed starting right tackle Braden Smith on the Reserve/Covid-19 List, which will knock him out of tomorrow’s game, but they still present a very formidable group for which they must be prepared. After writing this, left tackle Anthony Castonzo was ruled out as well.
Coincidentally, it just so happened to be edge rusher T.J. Watt, who comes off the defense’s left side, who was asked on Thursday to comment upon the quality of the offensive line that the Steelers will be facing tomorrow. Obviously, his comments were made prior to the Smith news.
“This group is a really cohesive unit together, and they work well off of each other, especially in the run game”, he said. “They have guards pulling around the edges. They have great pass pro together when it’s passing off games. I think the quarterback has a great understanding of where those guys are gonna be and vice versa. So I just think collectively they have a great unit”.
They have, in fact, excelled particularly on the ground in recent weeks, as rookie running back Jonathan Taylor continues to be an emerging player for them over the course of the season. They have rushed for over 100 yards in seven of their past eight games, including a 200-yard game, and Taylor is up to nearly 850 rushing yards with seven touchdowns, well within striking distance of finishing the year with 1000 on the ground.
That’s not to ignore the very solid work this offensive line does in pass protection, thanks to the likes of
Anthony Castonzo and Quentin Nelson, one of the most respected players in the league at their positions of tackle and guard , respectively. The Colts have only allowed 16 sacks on the season.
Of course, as much of a challenge this offensive line will be for the Steelers, Pittsburgh’s defense will be a challenge for the Colts’ stalwart group, which will be down a starter. This is arguably the best defense that they have faced all season, with the Baltimore Ravens also being a challenge—against whom they scored a season-low 10 points. They only scored under 20 points one other time, and that was 19 points against the Chicago Bears.