As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to face the Indianapolis Colts at 3-7, anything resembling a playoff hope is on the line. While the Colts are sitting at 4-6-1, they only narrowly lost to the 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles, and won their prior game against the Las Vegas Raiders. Needless to say, the Colts are and should be the favorite. In his weekly predictions article that came out Wednesday, Pete Prisco of CBS Sports is projecting that the Colts will narrowly beat the Steelers by a score of 20-19.
“The Colts looked to be on their way to going 2-0 last week under Jeff Saturday,” Prisco said in justifying his pick. “But blew a lead against the Eagles late. The Steelers hung around against the Bengals, with Kenny Pickett showing better at quarterback. The Steelers defense is much better with T.J. Watt back, and I think that front will keep the Steelers in this game.”
The Colts’ season is best described as a box of chocolates, as you never know what type of performance you will get. In Week 3, they beat the Super Bowl-contending Kansas City Chiefs. Prior to that, they were shut out by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite a change in their head coach, the Colts are a confident group with considerable momentum. Losing by one point to the Eagles, whom the Steelers fell to by a score of 35-13, is impressive.
Though he is picking them to lose, Prisco gave credit to the Steelers where it is due. Indeed, the team did stick around with the Cincinnati Bengals, and led in the first half. The defense is also considerably better with the return of Watt, though they did have one of their worse games of the season against the Bengals.
That said, their matchup against Colts’ quarterback Matt Ryan, who is having an inconsistent season and was benched at one point, is favorable on paper. As Prisco also said, Steelers’ quarterback Kenny Pickett is improving every week, and had a commendable performance against the Bengals. There are a few key mismatches for the Steelers to exploit against the Colts. That is, according to Ben Baldwin of The Athletic on Twitter, the Colts’ offensive line is graded poorly by both ESPN and PFF. This makes for a matchup advantage for the Steelers’ pass rush, which is considerably better with Watt back.
According to ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight, the Colts have an 18% chance to make the playoffs, while the Steelers only have a 1% chance. Indeed, the only true path for the Steelers to the playoffs is winning out, while the Colts can afford to drop a game or two. While it’s only reasonable to expect the Colts to play harder as a result, Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin is never one to have his group give up. However, the Colts are in a better position, and a 20-19 Colts’ victory is a conceivable scenario for Sunday’s game.