The Pittsburgh Steelers dominated the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night in a game where the statistics have a hard time telling the story. Well, not every story is hidden in the box score. Pittsburgh QB Tommy Maddox outplayed much-heralded Indianapolis' QB Peyton Manning. If the game was a tale of two quarterbacks, Maddox clearly came out on top.
While Maddox's 188 passing yard seem to pale in comparison to Manning's 303, the rest of the QB line tells a different story. Maddox threw for more touchdowns, more yards per attempts, and less interceptions than Manning. Peyton's interception that killed a last minute thrill for Indianapolis at the end of the first half looked much more XFL than anything Tommy has done for the Steelers thus far. Advantage Maddox…
The Steelers offense looks AFC competitive. The worry in Pittsburgh is the defense. LB Kendrell Bell started off sluggish, to say the least. The Colts seemed to pick on Kendrell early on to some measurable success. Bell still has trouble moving laterally and he was often a weakness on the field. Where Bell failed, LB James Farrior excelled and helped Earl Holmes look all the smarter in a Clemson Tigers' uniform. Bell was not a presence on the field until the second half, and even then in a limited capacity. Bell proved, more or less, a liability in his return.
But perhaps a harbinger of things to come, FS Brent Alexander was forced to leave the field with a minor injury. In his staid, Mike Logan excelled and raised the ante on what should be a raging controversy concerning the play at safety for the Steelers. Unfortunately, Alexander's two interceptions will continue to muddle the issue and shadow Logan's superior athletic play at the position.
The Steelers defensive line continues to play well and DE Rodney Bailey is a force in the dime. Bailey helped the Steelers harass Manning all night while the secondary played an excellent game in tight coverage. Certainly, the defense could be much better, but they should be commended for their efforts. The Colts, after all, managed just 10 points.
Well, what about special teams? LB Joey Porter continues to demonstrate why his game might be the most complete in the NFL. Porter's blocked punt set the tenor of the game and almost knocked-out the Colts. What was impressive was the kickoff coverage, though no thanks to K Todd Peterson, who nailed another beauty out of bounds. The strategy seemed to concede the short kick, but at least a higher pop fly allowing the coverage to get downfield. The results were relatively successful and harbor some hopes for the future.
Speaking of hopes for the future, might Peterson cultivate a home field advantage? Mr. Accuracy, K Mike Vanderjagt, succumbed to the curse of Heinz Field and shanked one. At the very least, the crappy turf might nullify the kicking game advantage for the oppositoin. Something for Peterson to consider.
The Monday night game was not entirely kind to the Steelers. Chris Fuamatu-Maafala looked to aggravate his rib injury and Jerome Bettis suffered a sprain knee. Bettis' injury did look insubstantial, but the real story is probably a few days away. Furthermore, C Jeff Hartings appeared to re-injure his bad knee. Nonetheless, the depth chart once again has proven a strength for the Steelers. While the Bettis injury distracted the Steelers, the team recovered to win the game.
The Baltimore Ravens should have their hands full next weekend. QB Chris Redman is no Peyton Manning and the Steelers have provided Baltimore with more film than they would probably care to assess. The Colts beat the Ravens and no amount of Raven fan spin can sink the Steelers into the role of underdogs. Still, the Steelers will simply have to prove on the field that they deserve the position of top dog in the AFC North.