INDIANAPOLIS – On their first short week of the season, the Colts have a monumental game waiting for them Saturday inside of Lucas Oil Stadium.
It’ll be the Colts (7-6) and Steelers (7-6) matching up this Saturday at 4:30 PM, a game airing nationally on NFL Network and locally on CBS-4.
What did we learn from the Colts as they returned to work on Tuesday?
- To begin his Tuesday press conference, Shane Steichen offered his usual “we’ll see” in regarding the injury statuses of RB-Jonathan Taylor (right thumb), RT-Braden Smith (right knee) and CB-JuJu Brents (quad). The Colts had a walk-through on Tuesday, with practices coming Wednesday and Thursday. Taylor and Smith were listed as “not participating” in the walk-through, whereas Brents fully participated.
- On Taylor, Wednesday will mark 2 weeks removed from his right thumb surgery. Steichen was asked on Tuesday if he expects Taylor to play again this season. “That’s the plan,” was Steichen’s response. Getting Taylor in practice, seeing how he is carrying the football, is able to protect it, and the ability to hold up in pass protection will be the key evaluation points for Taylor, whenever he does get back on the field.
- Linebacker E.J. Speed (knee) seems to be doing better though after being a late-week scratch last week. Speed practiced on Friday, but then was ruled out on Saturday for the Bengals game. “He’s feeling good. He’ll be alright,” was the update from Steichen in regards to Speed on Tuesday. The Colts certainly felt the loss of Speed in Sunday’s defeat to the Bengals. Speed participated fully in Tuesday’s walk-through.
- During Tuesday’s media availability, veteran left guard Quenton Nelson detailed what went wrong in the run game vs. the Bengals: “A couple of things—downhill (linebackers), missing them, I missed one on one play; fitting combos (combination blocks) better. We can’t have negative yard plays, so that’s the biggest thing,” Nelson said. To that final point from Nelson, Zack Moss had 13 carries against the Bengals and 6 of them went for 0 or negative yards. Nelson acknowledged finding a more successful run game should open up the pass game, too. In the last 5 games, the Colts have averaged more than 2.7 yards per rush in just 1 of those games.
- Both the Colts and Steelers have some key injuries to watch this week. No bigger though than T.J. Watt for the Steelers, who entered concussion protocol last Friday morning, following Pittsburgh’s loss to New England on Thursday night. Is 8 days enough for Watt, one of the game’s most disruptive pass rushers, to clear concussion protocol? Watt facing a rookie in Blake Freeland at right tackle (if Braden Smith can’t go) would be a massive matchup in favor of the Steelers. On Tuesday, with the Steelers holding an actual practice following their mini bye, Watt was a limited participant in practice as he tries to progress through concussion protocol this week.
- To further the recent run-game struggles, Zack Moss is averaging just 2.5 yards per carry (32 carries for 79 yards) the last two weeks. Shane Steichen stressed the Colts need to be better in the trenches in getting the run game back on track. Given the makeup of the offense right now, this is going to be a huge storyline the remainder of the season. If you take out the two games against Jacksonville, these last two weeks are the two worst rushing games of the Colts entire season.
- The Steelers offense is reeling, and there are questions if they should turn to third stringer Mason Rudolph with Kenny Pickett (ankle) missing another game. It’ll be Mitch Trubisky on Saturday, and he did not look good last Thursday against New England. Trubisky has faced a Gus Bradley-coordinated defense once before, that was in 2019 with the Bears. Trubisky went 23-of-35 for 253 yards and 1 INT in that game with the Chargers.
- It can’t be stressed enough the importance of this Saturday for the Colts playoff hopes. You are looking at around a 40 percent different in playoff odds for the Colts, depending on a win or loss against the Steelers.
- For the latest update on TE-Jelani Woods (hamstring), Shane Steichen said he isn’t sure if the second-year tight end will play again this season. Woods has now missed 5 straight months of practice, with multiple hamstring issues.
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