Thursday may come too soon for Colts' star QB to shake off concussion

Also: Heyward on shocking collegiate loss to Tolzien; Bell on coming off his heaviest workload; Tuitt on Notre Dame penalties.

PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Shazier broke down the Indianapolis Colts by the basics.

"They've got a great quarterback in Andrew Luck and a really solid running game with Frank Gore," said the Steelers inside linebacker. "He's a downhill, hard-nosed runner, but they have a lot of weapons outside, too. We've got to--"

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

Did he say Andrew Luck?

Isn't Luck going to miss the game with a concussion?

"Hey," Shazier said as he leaned in. "I've seen a lot of people say they're not going to play and they end up playing. I'm going to keep practicing for him until I see he's not on the field myself."

That's how the Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing, as if Luck's going to play for the Colts on Thursday night.

But getting out of concussion protocol that soon after suffering a head injury last Sunday will be difficult. The Colts seem resigned to having Scott Tolzien start in place of Luck.

"We don't really know," said Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton. "If (Luck) plays, that would be great. If not, then we go out there and find a way to win."

That won't be easy against a Steelers team that defeated the Colts 45-10 and 51-34 the last two seasons.

Last year, the injured Luck was replaced by the since-retired Matt Hasselbeck, whose place on the roster has been taken by Tolzien, a sixth-year pro who's started two games and played in six since coming out of Wisconsin in 2011.

Tolzien signed after that year's draft with the San Francisco 49ers, started two games for the Green Bay Packers in 2013 and signed with the Colts as a free agent last March. This preseason he completed 41 of 62 passes with a passer rating of 87.4.

Tolzien's claim to fame might be directing Wisconsin to an upset win over then-No. 1 Ohio State in 2010. It was the only loss that season for the Buckeyes.

"Yeah, I remember," sighed Cam Heyward, then a senior at Ohio State. "They were mostly a running offense, but I think he gave them the flexibility to mix it up a little bit, whether it was just being a game manager. At Wisconsin they don't really trust that many quarterbacks to do much passing, but I thought he did an adequate job."

The Colts offered more in the way of a scouting report on Tolzien.

"He was with us in OTAs and training camp," said Hilton. "He's a guy we can trust. He's a vet who knows how to prepare the right way."

"He's a pro's pro," said Coach Chuck Pagano. "He handles his business day in and day out, just like you'd want a backup quarterback to do. He's a talented guy. He's a smart guy. He makes great decisions. He's got arm talent. He can make all the throws. Again, he understands and knows our system inside and out. If he's got to step out there, he'll do a great job. It doesn't fall on one guy's shoulders but we all understand the magnitude and the importance of getting good play from that position. He's an athletic guy. He's a mobile guy. If he gets the opportunity, we're preparing for him to go out and play winning football."

CAM TURNS CHEERLEADER

Heyward returned to the locker room for the first time Tuesday since tearing a pectoral muscle against the Dallas Cowboys. He's out for the season but will be around in case anyone needs him.

"Just trying to relate the things the coaches are saying to the players and just try to be honest," he said. "Obviously I can't do what I want to do. Can't be out there. But I'm going to be the biggest supporter. I'm going to be the biggest cheerleader for these guys."

BELL FEELING FRESH

Even though Le'Veon Bell was coming off the heaviest workload of his four-year professional career, the Steelers running back said he felt fine and is looking forward to another game Thursday night.

"Yeah, I feel good," Bell said after Tuesday's walk-through practice. "I didn't take any really hard hits last game. The offensive line did a good job of opening up holes so it made my job a lot easier. I didn't have to bang my way in there a lot, and I got out of bounds when I could."

Bell carried 28 times, the most in two years, and gained a season-high 146 yards. He also caught eight passes for 55 yards, giving him 36 touches for 201 yards. His previous high was 35 touches for 222 yards on Nov. 17, 2014 at Tennessee. In the ensuing game, Bell touched the ball 29 times for 180 yards against New Orleans.

"I think today I felt better than I would on a normal Tuesday," Bell said. "I ran yesterday and I ran a bit today, so it felt good just to get the body moving and get prepared for the week."

Bell said the more difficult task will be "jamming the whole game plan in the midst of two, three days," he said. "I don't think it's too much on the body. I think once Thursday night gets here everybody's body's going to feel good. We're used to practicing on Thursday, so once it gets to Thursday night it won't affect the way we feel too much."

QUOTABLE

Stephon Tuitt upon hearing the news that Notre Dame must forfeit all of its wins from the 2012-13 seasons:

"I can't believe that. We have to vacate all the wins we had. Basically everything we did is thrown away."


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