Steelers Will Need The Running Game Against Colts

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be showcasing their aerial attack on Sunday Night Football, when they battle the Indianapolis Colts. Ben Roethlisberger is listed as probable, on the team’s injury list. The Steelers saw Big Ben exit with a concussion, during the fourth quarter of their Week 12 loss to Seattle. After passing the NFL’s concussion protocol, he was able to practice and prepare for the Colts.

The Steelers (6-5) offense looked good against the Seahawks. Even though they suffered a blow with the loss, the passing attack looked great. Roethlisberger was able to roll up 456 yards passing, on the Legion of Boom. The Steelers were able grind out over 500 yards of total offense. That’s not an easy accomplishment at CenturyLink Field.

Concussions can tend to make the status of a player shaky. But all indications point to Roethlisberger being under center for the Colts for Sunday night.

Steelers Colts [Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images]Catching the 9-2 Cincinnati Bengals seems unlikely for the Steelers. But they are tied for the lead in the AFC Wild Card race, which is suddenly tight, with several teams battling for two spots. The Colts (6-5) are atop the AFC South standings with the Houston Texans. Though they are looking better, their underlying numbers aren’t pretty. Indianapolis is No. 24 in offense and No. 25 in defense, but still enters on a three-game winning streak after beating the Broncos, Falcons, and Buccaneers to round out November.

The Steelers should be able to secure the Wild Card with a win against the Colts. Matt Hasselbeck has led the Colts to a 4-0 record when starting, while Andrew Luck hasn’t had the luck of the draw. Indianapolis is 2-5 when their franchise QB has started the game. Even analysts at CBS Sports are not buying into the Colts over the Steelers.

The Week 13 game between the Steelers and Colts has the makeup of a shootout. Both teams are capable of putting up points, while surrendering a tremendous amount of yards on the defensive side of the football. That’s where the Steelers will have to get it together. The defense has been guilty of a few losses that would have Pittsburgh in a better position, had the games gone the other way.

Getting pressure on the 40-year-old Hasselbeck will be the main objective, for the Steelers. If he’s allowed to sit in the pocket with time to throw, it could be a long day for the Steelers’ secondary. The Colts have protected the quarterback well in 2015, only surrendering 23 sacks through 11 games.

Steelers Colts [Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images]The Steelers will have to be on alert for the Colts running game, while establishing their own. The Colts haven’t had a 100-yard rusher in a league-high 45 consecutive games and haven’t had a running back with a 1,000-yard season since Joseph Addai in 2007, also the longest drought in the league. They had just 27 yards on 26 carries last week against Tampa Bay, third-fewest yards in a victory and eleventh fewest overall in franchise history.

Putting pressure on Hasselbeck will start with a Steelers defense that shuts down the ground game. The Colts are depending on a big day from Hasselbeck. But if he’s forced into too many passes, that could be an advantage for the Steelers.

For much of the Seattle game, the Steelers were solid on first and second down. But Pittsburgh didn’t follow the blueprint of keeping receivers in front of them and making the tackles. Receivers had too much room to roam on obvious passing downs. Pretty simple theme this week – get off the field.

With the AFC Wild Card race still wide open, the Steelers need this game to get an edge. The defense will have to prove they’re playoff ready and DeAndre Williams will have to crank it up.

[Feature Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images]