By: Zach Metkler, GZ Sports Report Writer
After stopping their four-game skid, the Steelers were able to put together a solid win against the 0-11 Browns in Week 11. With a very short turn-around, the Steelers will head to Indianapolis to take on the Colts for a Thanksgiving matchup. Both teams are 5-5 and head into this Week 12 matchup jockeying for position in their respective division race’s. Both teams will be desperate for a win but what needs to happen for the Steelers to keep pace with the Ravens?
The Steelers Must Capitalize on Drives
I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but the Steelers can’t continue to settle for field goals and empty drives. Between the 20 yard lines, the Steelers seem to be able to effectively move the ball with ease but whenever they get into the redzone, they have a tendency to freeze up and settle for field goals. While the Colts are far from an elite team, the Steelers need to get touchdowns when in the redzone if they expect to beat top teams in the league. The Steelers have been able to sneak out of games with their current method, but eventually, this luck will run out. The Colts present the opportunity to put some major points on the board, just as they have over the past two seasons (51 points in 2014 and 45 points in 2015). Look for the offense to rebound against the Colts weak secondary.
With Luck Likely Out, the Defense Must Take Advantage of Tolzien
After suffering a concussion against the Titans, Andrew Luck instantly entered the NFL’s concussion protocol. Head coach Chuck Pagano refuses to commit on whether Luck will start at quarterback but with the short turn-around for this game, it is expected that backup Scott Tolzien will get the nod. While he is far from Luck in regards to talent, Tolzien has shown flashes in his time as a backup to Aaron Rodgers with the Packers. During one of his two starts with the Packers in 2013, Tolzien was able to put up 339 yards against the Giants, but also showed an inability to protect the ball, as he threw three interceptions. The Steelers have been in plenty of positions this year to force turnovers, specifically interceptions. Against the Browns, the Steelers dropped five possible interceptions and many more in previous games. The Steelers will face a weak quarterback with the tendency to turn the ball over so they must take advantage of these opportunities to prevent the Colts from gathering any momentum on offense.
After Tallying Eight Sacks Against the Browns, the Steelers Must Continue Getting After the Quarterback
One thing was evident against the Browns: the Steelers won the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The Steelers will have the same opportunity against the Colts, as the Colts sport one of the weakest offensive lines in the NFL and the defensive line leaves much to be desired. After being in the basement of the NFL in sacks for almost the entire season, the Steelers tied the season-high for sacks in a game in the NFL with eight against the Browns. Stephon Tuitt has began looking like the stud that he was expected to look like entering this season and James Harrison continues to defy the laws of aging as he continues to be a presence in the Steelers outside linebacker rotation. With a backup quarterback and a porous offensive line, the Steelers front seven has a great opportunity to continue to add to their sack total and create opportunities for the secondary. On offense, Le’Veon Bell was able to gash the Browns on seemingly every play. While Bell was unavailable for last year’s game against the Colts, DeAngelo Williams was able to put up 134 yards and a healthy average of 5.15 yards per carry. If Bell can have the same success this year, the offense will open up and lead to more opportunities for Ben Roethlisberger and the offense. Speaking of Big Ben…
A Receiver Not Named Antonio Brown (and Le’Veon Bell) Needs to Step Up
Through the first 11 weeks of the season, the Steelers have been unable to solidify their #2 wide receiver spot. Against the Browns, Brown and Bell combined for 16 of Roethlisberger’s 23 completions. Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers, Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Cobi Hamilton have all attempted, but none of really separated themselves as legitimate options. At this point, it would appear that Rogers has the inside track as the #2 option. With Coates dealing with a hand/finger injury, Wheaton being done for the season, and Heyward-Bey still dealing with injuries of his own, Rogers and Hamilton need to step up in a big way. Bell has been Roethlisberger’s #2 target since Bell’s return from suspension this season, which is great. But this offense will never reach it’s true potential if no one steps up. The Colts’ secondary is arguably a weaker unit that the Steelers (yes, it is possible), with the exception of cornerback Vontae Davis. Davis will likely be playing opposite of Brown for most of the day, meaning that Patrick Robinson will be matched up against the Steelers other outside receiver. Rogers and Hamilton are both athletically superior to Robinson, meaning that there is the opportunity for both of them to make some big plays. If one of them can take the pressure off of Brown and Bell, the Steelers offense could be in for a record day (just as they have over the past two seasons).
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