Notebook: Colts undefeated and unfazed

PITTSBURGH – A win tonight by the Indianapolis Colts would make them the 11th 11-0 team in NFL history, but the hype machine isn't waiting for double snake-eyes; it's already at full throttle.

But Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said the oft-repeated questions about going undefeated haven't become a distraction.

"Around here, they have to find a different angle," Manning said of the local beat reporters. "The best thing that we've done so far this season is the old boring clichés. You certainly take it one at a time, but it's easy when you meet a team like Pittsburgh."

Even off the field, Manning is a smooth operator. But the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only team in NFL history to finish 17-0, are becoming cranky again, and it's not because they fear the Colts will match their legacy.

"It's fun, and we look at it," former Dolphins tight end Jim Mandich told USA Today. "But anyone who calls us ‘pathetic old guys who cling desperately to this record,' to him I say ‘(Bleep) you.' None of us ever calls (a reporter) and says, ‘You're not giving us enough attention.' Guys like you call me. Then, when we respond and say things like, ‘Yeah, we're proud of what we did,' it somehow gets interpreted that we're ‘clinging desperately,' that we don't have lives."

Mandich also played for the Steelers in 1978, when a nickel back by the name of Tony Dungy led the champs with six interceptions.

"I've known him since he was a high school quarterback in Jackson, Michigan," Mandich told the paper. "I pull for Tony Dungy. I want him to win a championship. I'm not sitting here with my Dolphins cheerleading skirt on."

HALL OF FAME

This week, the NFL announced its 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. On the list are former Steelers Dermontti Dawson and L.C. Greenwood, as well as current offensive line coach Russ Grimm.

The group will be whittled down to 13 in mid January and will be joined by two senior candidates – John Madden and Rayfield Wright – as the finalists before the Feb. 4 pronouncement of the three to six new members.

Nominated Steelers who didn't make the cut are Donnie Shell and Kevin Greene, but the most egregious absence is that of seniors candidate Jack Butler. The former Steelers defensive back played from 1951 to 1959 and intercepted 52 passes, including a team record four in one game.

After retiring as a player, Butler founded the BLESTO scouting combine, which he still runs. Butler's son, Mike Butler, an IUP graduate, is the director of college scouting for the Colts.

DEFINING POLAMALU

The common job description for Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu is that of a "freelancer." Polamalu has tried his best to correct reporters on this misnomer. This week, his coach, Bill Cowher, took a shot at it.

"He knows where he needs to be within the structure of the defense," Cowher said. "Sometimes he takes different paths getting there that even we, at times, are wondering where he's going to be. So I know the defense won't know where he's at because sometimes even we don't know where he's going to be. But we also have a call, and he understands what the structure of the defense is."

In other words, Polamalu takes an undefined path to get to where he's supposed to be.

STRUGGLING GUARD

Is Kendall Simmons struggling? Or has he just been cursed by facing the opposition's best defensive tackle each week?

In the last three weeks, Simmons has had to block Anthony Weaver, Orpheus Roye and Grady Jackson. He's also faced Marcus Stroud, Vince Wilfork and Gary Walker, among others, this season.

This week? You guessed it: Corey Simon.

Why does the best tackle seem to always line up over the right guard? Alan Faneca explains:

"When you've got somebody like Dwight Freeney, you try to put your D-tackle opposite your big pass rusher or everybody would just turn protection and slide the whole way."


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