The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their eleventh game of the 2022 regular season on the road Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts, and they’ll once again enter that contest listed as a slight underdog. Below are five key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do on the road Monday night to come away with their fourth win of the 2022 season.
Taylor-Made Defense – You can bet that the Colts will attempt to run the football early and often on Monday night against the Steelers defense and especially with Jeff Saturday as the team’s interim head coach. Additionally, the Colts love running out of 11 personnel against nickel defenses. When healthy, Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is one of the best ballcarriers in the NFL and in the last two games he’s managed to tally 231 yards rushing on 44 total attempts with two touchdowns. Taylor has 17 runs of ten yards or longer on the season in just eight games played. He can take over any game and especially late if the score is close. The Steelers’ defense has only allowed one 100-yard rusher this season in games and that was back in Week 3 versus the Cleveland Browns. They obviously lost that game as well. Keeping Taylor well under 100 yards rushing on Monday night will go a long way in helping the Steelers leave Indianapolis with a win.
Explosive Ordnance Management – What is up with all the explosive plays allowed by the Steelers defense so far this season? That number of 20 yard or longer plays allowed is now up to 50 following the defense allowing six last Sunday in the team’s home loss. That’s the second most allowed in the NFL. Additionally, ten of those 50 explosive plays allowed have resulted in touchdowns and that unfortunately leads the NFL. The Colts’ offense has produced 38 explosive plays so far this season and wide receiver Alec Pierce leads the team with seven. Only twelve of those plays have come vis deep passes of longer than 15 air yards so this Colts team seems to be doing some work after the catch. A few weeks ago, the Steelers’ defense did not allow a single explosive play in their Week 10 home win. If the unit can hold the Colts’ offense to three a fewer on Monday night, it might just result in another win.
Move Your Johnson Around – While Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson has caught 51 passes so far this season, he’s only managed 456 yards receiving and he’s yet to score a touchdown. Quite a few of Johnson’s catches this season have come on curls, comebacks, and outs and that’s not helping him in the yards after department. Johnson needs more opportunities to catch the football short and in space in addition to a few more deep shots per game. With all the attention Johnson receives from opposing defenses, a more concerted effort needs to be made to move him around and that includes more snaps out of the slot. Johnson has not had a 100-yard receiving game this season. It feels like that needs to change on Monday night for the Steelers to get a win in Indianapolis.
Bang The Banged-Up Front – All four of the Colts’ defensive front starters, DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Kwity Paye and Yannick Ngakoue were on the team’s injury report this past week. Paye has been ruled out and Buckner and Ngakoue are both questionable to play. That begs for that front to be tested against the run Monday night and especially right up the middle. The Steelers’ running game has seemed to improve bit by bit these last few weeks and that’s been very encouraging. The Steelers won’t have backup running back Jaylen Warren on Monday night so we might see running back Anthony McFarland Jr. get a few carries against the Colts if elevated. The Steelers’ offense must be better on 1st and 10 runs as the unit is ranked 29th overall with just a 4.1 yards per rush average. Running back Najee Harris needs another solid game with at least 20 rushing attempts.
Sack Bunches – The Colts and the Chicago Bears entered Week 12 with most sacks allowed with 40. On top of that, Colts quarterback Matt Ryan has been on the receiving end of 29 of those sacks and that’s not a bit surprising as he’s anything but mobile at this stage of his career. Monday night will be the third game back from injury for outside linebacker T.J. Watt so he should be expected to have one of those multi-sack games of his. Fellow outside linebacker Alex Highsmith should be able to get some quality rushes on Ryan as well Monday night. This game certainly sets up to be one where the Steelers’ defense can register five or more sacks. If they can hit at least five on Monday night, they will probably win the game.