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Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers looking to get back in the win column on MNF

Pittsburgh Steelers
(© dean bertoncelj – Shutterstock)

Pittsburgh travels to Indianapolis for a Monday Night primetime matchup, looking for its eighth-consecutive win against the Colts.

The Steelers (3-7) will try to get back in the win column after blowing a halftime lead last week against Cincinnati, in a 37-30 loss that the team feels like it let slip away with poor execution in the second half.

The Colts (4-6-1) have had mixed results with veteran quarterback Matt Ryan, who was briefly benched for backup Sam Ehlinger but led Indianapolis to a come-from-behind, 25-20 win against the Raiders in his return to the starting job two weeks ago.

Indy’s Jonathan Taylor — who led the league in rushing last season with 1,811 yards — put up 147 yards on the ground against the Raiders, his highest total of the year aside from a 161-yard outing in Week 1 against Houston.

“We haven’t been in a stadium with [Taylor] before, but we respect his talents and his resume,” said Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin. “We believe quality play, for them, centers around his exploits and what he’s able to do. We’ve got to minimize his impact on the game.”

Indianapolis interim head coach Jeff Saturday, who played 13 of his 14 NFL seasons with the organization as Peyton Manning’s center, took over after the Colts fired Frank Reich prior to the game against Las Vegas. Saturday, who served as an ESPN analyst prior to his new gig, had only high-school coaching experience before being hired by his former team, but team owner Jim Irsay was convinced that he was the right guy for the job.

“Jeff, he’s the thing that drives this thing, that’s the reason in bringing him in,” said Irsay after the victory over the Raiders. “I knew he had those abilities to come in and be a great leader and take over right away.”

The Colts held a 16-10 lead against the 9-1 Eagles late in the fourth quarter last week, but Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts spoiled their upset hopes with a game-winning touchdown run with 1:20 to play.

Third-year wideout Michael Pittman Jr. leads a solid receiving corps, as he’s been targeted 92 times on the year (next-highest on the team is Parris Campbell’s 60), good for eighth in the league. Pittman also ranks first on the team in receptions (67), receiving yards (678), yards after catch (276) and first-down grabs (35), but has only found the end zone once on the season, and that also came in the season opener against the Texans.

Former Virginia tight end Jelani Woods is tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions with 3, while another Cavalier graduate, 11th-year safety Rodney McLeod, is the Colts’ third-leading tackler (57, with 38 solo) behind linebackers Zaire Franklin (110) and Bobby Okereke (95).

Pittsburgh has seen improvements in the run game over the past two weeks with second-year back Najee Harris (189 yards and 2 TDs in his last two games), but will be facing a Colts defense that has been tough to gain ground yardage against.

“Our running game is getting better, but we’re playing one of the highest-ranked defenses in the league this week,” said Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada. “They’re good at everything. It will be a real challenge for us.”

The Steelers have beaten Indy each of the last seven times in the all-time series, and will have to put together a solid performance in all three phases if they want to extend their longest active winning streak against an NFL opponent.

The last time the Steelers lost to the Colts was in November of the 2008 season. Pittsburgh has a 24-5 record against the Colts’ organization dating back to the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, which marks the team’s highest winning percentage (.828) during that span against them than any other AFC foe.

As of Sunday evening, the Colts are listed as a 2.5-point favorite to defeat Pittsburgh, with an over-under of 39.5, according to Caesars Sportsbook.

Injury Report

The Steelers will be without two significant contributors in CB Ahkello Witherspoon (who will be missing his seventh game of the season) and rookie RB Jaylen Warren. Both have been declared out as they deal with hamstring issues. Linebacker Robert Spillane is listed as questionable, along with reserve wideout Miles Boykin.

Three Colts defenders are listed as questionable — Franklin (illness), DT DeForest Buckner (ribs/illness) and DE Yannick Ngakoue, while TE Kylen Granson (illness) was downgraded to doubtful, and DE Kwity Paye (ankle) will not play.

Scott Ratcliffe

Scott Ratcliffe has worked as a freelance writer for several publications over the past decade-plus, with a concentration on local and college sports. He is also a writer and editor for his father’s website, JerryRatcliffe.com, dedicated to the coverage of University of Virginia athletics.