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Colts vs. Steelers hardly prime-time worthy

I’m curious how NBC plans to advertise the Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts game as Sunday night draws closer.Some possibilities: “James Harrison and Troy Polamalu take on the ghosts of Colts offenses’ past!”“Showdown: ‘Big’ Ben Roethlisberger vs. ‘Creaky’ Kerry Collins!”“Tony Dungy traumatized. Live on ‘Sunday Night Football!’”This one looks ugly. The Steelers, still stinging from a Week 1 loss to the Ravens, will be primed to complete a return to form by flattening Collins into a human Fathead poster. The Colts, still stinging from resembling the winless 2008 Detroit Lions, will be praying for a miracle. OK, the players won’t be praying. But the fans are already doing so. At least I assume that’s why they have their eyes closed.It’s easy to understand the Colts struggling to adjust to the absence of quarterback Peyton Manning. The intangibles (leadership) and tangibles (touchdowns) he provides can’t be overstated.But it’s safe to say the Colts are adjusting. Too slowly, perhaps. That’s a legitimate beef. It’s also safe to say Collins continues to become more comfortable with the offense the more he runs it, although he was hit with a shoulder probleme this week. Is he comfortable enough, and healthy enough, for the Steelers’ aggressive, experienced defense? That won’t be answered until 8:20 p.m. Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.Can the Colts upset the Steelers after being drilled by the Texans and nipped by the Browns? I can’t go that far. Too many factors weigh in Pittsburgh’s favor. The big three are Roethlisberger, the running game and the defensive pressure.Here’s why: Roethlisberger’s strength Roethlisberger remains unorthodox in a lot of ways. But the Colts success against quarterbacks is predicated on bringing the heat from ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Roethlisberger counters with two attributes that can negate Freeney and Mathis: fearlessness and size.Big Ben won’t hear footsteps and if he does, he’ll move, and continue to move, even if Freeney or Mathis has a hand on him.“He’s a big boy,” Freeney said. “He’s strong and he knows that. He has the ability to shake guys off, throw guys off. That’s what you have to account for. Michael Vick, when a play breaks down, he’ll make a play with his feet. Ben, when a play breaks down, he throws people off and tries to make a play.”Freeney has sacked Roethlisberger in the past.“I’ve got him a few times,” Freeney said. “It’s not easy. I’ve called for help.”Roethlisberger had a rough first week against the Ravens, throwing three interceptions. He was much smoother against the Seahawks. The Colts defense leans closer to Seattle’s than Baltimore’s so far this season. Steelers on the run A perennial Colts problem is run defense. A perennial Steelers strength is running.After being stifled by the Ravens, the Steelers’ primary backs Rashard Mendenhall (66 yards) and Isaac Redman (49) combined for a solid 115 yards rushing against the Seahawks. With Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett questionable to play because of a shoulder injury, they could be even more vulnerable to the run. The Steelers have the offensive line and backs to run on the Colts.But if the Colts focus too much on the run, then the Steelers can isolate wide receivers Mike Wallace and Hines Ward on the Colts’ corners. Unfortunately, the best Colts corner, Jerraud Powers, can’t cover two receivers at once.“Mendenhall and Isaac Redman can both get downhill, making tacklers miss,” Brackett said. “And Ben Roethlisberger makes a lot of plays with his legs to keep plays going.” Pittsburgh pressure When Collins has enough time to operate in the passing game – five minutes per snap would probably do it – he’s accurate and effective. When he doesn’t, he’s a fumble waiting to happen. The Steelers won’t be cutting him any slack.Pittsburgh has six sacks in two games, and they’ve come from all directions. Steelers who have had a sack, or a hand in one, include: Harrison, Polamalu, James Farrior, Larry Foote, LaMarr Woodley and Steve McLendon.“They come at you a number of different ways, and they give you a number of different looks,” Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. “They’re a fairly complex 3-4, and it’s a hybrid. They do a lot of different things with it, and Dick LeBeau does a tremendous job of mixing things up and keeping you guessing. But theirs is a force because of their personnel.”Having covered the Colts during their decade of excellence, I hesitate to count them out of any single game, even as ragged as they have looked so far. They made progress against the Browns, which is faint praise, but at least something.Problem is, the Steelers already had their wake-up call. They’ll be wide awake Sunday night. You might want to send the kids to bed early. This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. E-mail Reggie Hayes at

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