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Thoughts on the Colts Game

The swagger is back.<p> Once missing early in this season, the Steelers' confidence is back after a convincing 28-10 victory over the Indianapolis Colts Monday night at Heinz Field.<p> "Everybody wondered about us after the first two games," said Steelers safety Lethon Flowers. "I think even coach Cowher began to doubt us a little. But we showed that when we can do what we do best, which is attack the offense, we can be a very good defense."<p>

Flowers contended that the Steelers played too soft in season-opening losses at New England and to Oakland, allowing the offense to dictate to the Steelers defense. Now, the Steelers are dictating to opposing offenses what they can and can't do.

It worked to perfection against Colts QB Peyton Manning Monday night, as the Steelers interecepted the Pro Bowler three times and forced him into several bad throws.

"He never got comfortable out there," Flowers said. "When he would adjust to our defense, we would adjust or at least look like we were adjusting to confuse him. (Defensive coordinator) Tim Lewis did a great job of calling plays. He trusted our corners to cover their guys one-on-one and they did it."

Tommy Maddox still makes me a little nervous at quarterback. He's made some very nice throws and he's converting first downs at a nice rate, but he still throws some ill-advised passes down the field. They haven't been picked yet, but they will be. You can't continue to test NFL defensive backs like that without being burned. Maddox may be a Mike Tomczak with a quicker release.

That being said, Maddox has done an excellent job of converting in the red zone.

If Jeff Hartings doesn't play this week at Baltimore, it will be a much larger blow than if Jerome Bettis doesn't. Both players suffered knee injuries Monday night and are listed as doubtful to play against the Ravens. The Steelers have Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala and Amos Zereoue behind Bettis. Behind Hartings? Ray Lewis, meet Chukky Okobi.

Kendrell Bell was a little lost in the first half of Monday night's game, but as the game wore on into the third and four quarters, we began to see that explosiveness once again. The combination of a healthy Bell and Joey Porter gives the Steelers two excellent defensive playmakers and should open things up for this defense to dominate.

Speaking of Porter, his punt deflection in the first quarter will get all of the attention, but the holding penalty he drew on the Colts' next drive was just as important. It gave Indianapolis a 1st-and-20 situation that the Colts could not convert and forced another punt. The Steelers marched down the field to take a 14-0 first-quarter lead.

The combination of Porter, Bell, James Farrior, and Jason Gildon is the fastest group of linebackers I've seen in 10 seasons of covering the NFL. They're scary fast.

The Steelers had better figure out a way to cover the tight end this week or Baltimore's Todd Heap will eat them alive. Heap does as good a job as anyone of fighting for the ball that I've seen. If it's a jump ball, he's going to win.

Plaxico Burress should watch some Todd Heap film.

Everyone is on Todd Peterson's case for short kickoffs, and rightfully so. Peterson's kickoffs went 57, 55, 57, 56, and 57 yards, the last of which rolled out of bounds at the 13-yard line. Indianapolis kicker Mike Vanderjagt's kicks went 57, 56, and 57 yards. They both missed 48-yard field goals short. It's got to be the field.

Peterson cannot, however, continue to have his kicks roll out of bounds. If I were an opposing team and the Steelers keep on kicking the ball to the sideline, I would give a lot of thought to letting them bounce. Of course you also take the chance that they'll bounce toward the middle of the field.

I'm sticking by my prediction that the Steelers will be 8-4 heading into the home stretch.

--Dale Lolley

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