The 4-3 Pittsburgh Steelers enter the 2nd of 3 consecutive home games at Heinz Field when they take on the 5-2 Indianapolis Colts this Sunday.
Pittsburgh eyes a key match up that would keep them in the AFC North mix, one week before facing the Baltimore Ravens. Incidentally, Pittsburgh could move up in the rankings: the division-leading Ravens will travel to Cincinnati to face the Bengals. By default, one of those 2 teams should lose, though the Bengals already have a tie on their record this year.
However, winning this week's game will be no easy task, as the Steelers face QB Andrew Luck, who has absolutely been on fire this season. The Indianapolis offense is ranked 1st overall in the NFL in yards, lead by the league's top passing attack.
The Colts defense has also been trending upward, ranking 5th in passing and 9th in rushing, yards allowed.
The Steelers will have to overachieve on their otherwise average league statistics, which is possible, as they otherwise have outstanding playmakers on their team. WR Antonio Brown leads the NFL in receiving yards, while RB Le'Veon Bell is 2nd in the league with all-purpose yardage.
A variety of players look to fill those gaps, as they did last week: WR Martavis Bryant dressed for the first time last game against the Texans, snagging his first catch and career touchdown on a 35 yard zinger from Ben Roethlisberger. Bryant also appeared to break free on several other throws, but Ben could not connect with the rookie.
Largely an afterthought last Monday, Markus Wheaton was posting numbers in-line with Emmanuel Sanders' 2013 season through the first 6 weeks. Lance Moore, who got off to a slow start due to injury, is doing what Jerricho Cotchery did last year as well: scoring touchdowns. Moore has posted 2 TDs in his last 3 games.
All hands will need to be on deck, as the Colts put up more points than the Steelers give up, and the Colts give up less points than the Steelers score. Those hands are likely to be a group of young players, in addition to Bryant, who helped the team against Houston.
The defense saw a surge on the line with the play of rookie Stephon Tuitt and Daniel McCullers getting a solid push, which stopped the Texan's running game cold, after a very hot first quarter. Rumors are pointing at Ryan Shazier returning to the linebacking corps this weekend as well.
And then there's Cortez Allen: benched last week due to subpar play against Cleveland, all fans could do is point and say "guess who" when the Texans ripped pass after pass into the secondary. If not for Mike Mitchell's second strip-fumble of the season, the results could have been disastrous... and that's with Ryan Fitzpatrick as the opposing QB.
The secondary could see more help from S Shamarko Thomas, who should also return from being out several games with an injury.
As said above, it will take an "all hands on deck" mentality, and an overall team effort to defeat one of the AFC's premier teams. However, the Steelers have posted alternating win, loss, win, loss, with each game this season. They will need to erase the every-other-week victory streak to stay in the hunt in the AFC North, and ultimately, a shot at the playoffs.