It’s impossible to know exactly who you’re going to be playing at the start of the season. Inevitably, most teams will undergo a series of significant changes that reshape their identity over the course of the year, whether positively or negatively, voluntarily or otherwise.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, for example, are a different team than the one that started the season now that rookie Kenny Pickett is at quarterback instead of veteran Mitch Trubisky. You can add the trade of starting wide receiver Chase Claypool as well.
Their upcoming opponent, the Indianapolis Colts, have significantly changed as well, most notably at the head coach position. They let go of Frank Reich and replaced him with Jeff Saturday, who was not even on the coaching staff, as interim head coach. They’ve only played two games under Saturday, so their opponents are still learning what it all means.
“Things definitely changed a little bit, but at least we do have some games”, cornerback Levi Wallace said about preparing for a Jeff Saturday team, via the team’s website. “It’s not like it’s the first game. You never really know a team’s tendencies until you go in there. Teams kind of change week to week, especially if you have some experience against them”.
I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you know enough of the background behind the Colts’ change at head coach and who Jeff Saturday is so that I don’t have to supply much biographical material. Suffice it to say that his hiring due to lack of coaching experience caused a stir, and creates a sense of unpredictability about what to expect from his team.
But the reality is that they have been competitive in the two games since he’s taken over. They won one and nearly upset one of the best teams in football, so the Steelers, in case they were under any illusions otherwise, can’t afford to overlook this Colts team.
“They do a great job. They’ve been pretty competitive the last couple games. They only lost by one point against Philly, who’s a great team”, Wallace pointed out. “You see they have an identity to give [Jonathan] Taylor the ball and run it and establish the run game. We have to be ready in all phases. They make corners tackle, so it’s definitely a physical week for us”.
Wallace also spoke in more detail about Taylor, the Colts’ starting running back who led the league in rushing last season. He has dealt with some injuries this season, but has been running his way back into shape in recent weeks.
Of course it’s not just Wallace’s unit that is on alert. The Colts actually have a talented defense, particularly upfront, so that’s going to be a significant challenge for the Steelers’ offensive line at a time when they are trying to revive their running game.