The Indianapolis Colts entered Sunday’s game with one of the best pass-blocking offensive lines in the NFL, having only surrendered 16 sacks all season. They had a veteran stalwart at left tackle in Anthony Castonzo, and Braden Smith manning the right tackle position. But neither would play against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
Smith would be placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 List in the middle of last week. Toward the end of the week, the Colts announced that Castonzo would be ruled out for the game due to injury. Which is how they ended up starting Will Holden and Chaz Green at left and right tackle, respectively.
Holden is a name you might be a bit familiar with. He was with the Baltimore Ravens earlier this year, and tested positive for Covid-19 in the leadup to their game against the Steelers. The Colts signed him off Baltimore’s practice squad, and he ended up starting at left tackle against the Steelers.
As for Green, he was a former third-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys, starting six games in two years with them. He started one of four games for the Oakland Raiders in 2019, but has been with Indianapolis in 2020. Sunday’s game was his only start.
“We wanted to throw as many fastballs at those guys as we could”, Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt said of the team’s game plan in attacking the Colts’ inexperienced starters. “Just when we were able to get into those pass rush situations, and they were kind of forced to throw the ball, we kind of got after them a little bit. They did a good job of supplementing them with chips and help, but at the end of the day, I feel like we got after them pretty good”.
Watt finished the game with two sacks. Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt also had one sack each. Alex Highsmith had a couple of high-quality and throw-altering pressures, even without a sack, one of which led to an interception.
Holden would actually leave the game injured in the second half, and J’Marcus Webb had to finish at left tackle. A former starter for the Chicago Bears who is in his 11th season, he most recently started eight games last season for the Miami Dolphins. His 17 snaps against the Steelers were his first of 2020.
Really, though, does it matter which tackle Watt is facing? It’s not as though he doesn’t have success against anybody that he is facing. There is a reason that he is one of the frontrunners for the defensive player of the year, and leads the NFL in sacks, hits, tackles for loss, and pass rush win rate.