Sunday Notebook: Manning coming around

The Pittsburgh Steelers host the Indianapolis Colts later this afternoon. The key, as always, will be slowing down Peyton Manning.

PITTSBURGH – Like the Colts, quarterback Peyton Manning got off to a slow start this season. His 83.3 passer rating is on pace for the worst since his rookie season in 1998, when Manning posted a passer rating of 71.2.

Of course, the Steelers aren't playing against the numbers this afternoon.

"The Manning I see this year is amazing," said Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. "I honestly don't understand what people are saying when they say he's lost a step. If you watch the film that we watch closely, he's putting the ball in the most amazing spots in the most amazing types of situations. There's no way we're going to underestimate him."

A staph infection caused Manning to undergo two knee surgeries 17 days apart last summer. It affected his training camp, and Manning posted a 73.1 rating in his first three games. His rating for the past five games has been 90.3 as the Colts have come back to even their record after an 0-2 start.

"There's a lot of football left to be played and I see them starting to click on all cylinders now," said Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "I think that their numbers are definitely going to shoot up here in the next few weeks, hopefully not this week."

COLTS' TOP THREAT

Manning's top wide receiver over the years, Marvin Harrison, has continued to fade. After catching only 20 passes in an injury-shortened 2007, Harrison's fourth on the team with 27 catches for 320 yards (11.85 avg.). Manning's new go-to receiver is Reggie Wayne, who has 43 receptions for 586 yards (13.6 avg.) He's expected to draw coverage from the Steelers' shutdown corner, Ike Taylor.

"If it ain't broke, don't mess with it," LeBeau said of his man-to-man ploy with Taylor. Manning also throws to tight end Dallas Clark (31-391) and slot man Anthony Gonzalez (34-412), who caught his first two touchdown passes of the season last week against the Patriots.

INJURY REPORT

Ruled out for the Steelers are LT Marvel Smith (back), CB Bryant McFadden (forearm) and TE Heath Miller (ankle). RB Willie Parker (shoulder) is doubtful, and LB LaMarr Woodley (calf) is questionable.

Also, RB Najeh Davenport was released by the team and LB Donovan Woods was called up from the practice squad.

Out for the Colts is cornerback Kelvin Hayden (hamstring), and reserves Roy Hall (knee) and Daniel Muir (hamstring). Hayden will miss his fifth consecutive game. The other starting cornerback, Marlin Jackson of Sharon, is on injured reserve. For the second consecutive week, the Colts will start Tim Jennings and Keiwan Ratliff at cornerback. Ratliff has been waived and re-signed twice this season.

SANDERS VS. POLAMALU

The Indianapolis Star published a comparison piece Saturday on Colts strong safety Bob Sanders and Polamalu. The author compared the players' Super Bowl rings, big plays, bigger contracts, long hair, name changes and charities. Colts Coach Tony Dungy called them "guys that can run and play half-field coverage and cover tight ends man-to-man, cover receivers and hit and be physical."

Here's how Polamalu sees Sanders:

"He's so uptempo. He runs to the ball, has great football instincts, is relentless, a great tackler."

Doesn't that sound a lot like Polamalu himself?

"Quite honestly I think we're opposites,"

Polamalu said. "His system is very different. He's not a third wide receiver cover man. They never put him in those situations. They have a whole different scheme, that Tampa 2 scheme. So it's tough to compare."


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