Ok, first off, yes, I do hate the Indianapolis Colts, and I think that there have been times when I have let my unbridled hatred of this team cloud my handicapping judgement. However, I hate the Pittsburgh Steelers almost as much and I am just going to do some straight up unbiased analysis on a Monday Night Game that I will watch from start to finish.
First off, Indy is 10-0. I think I heard somewhere that they are trying to break the record of the 72 Dolphins? I might be wrong about that, someone may want to check....
Ben Roethlisberger is returning tonight, and his presence makes the Steelers instantly better than last week. They say he is healthy, which I believe mainly because it's been 4 weeks since the scope, and he has been held back about as long as he can. The interesting thing about Big Ben is he has only lost to ONE team in his career, the Patriots. This is by far the best defense Indy has played all year and I see a few things happening tonight.
1. Manning will be blitzed often. You will not see much zone coverage tonight, and this crap of the Colts making every 3rd down will come to a quick end.
2. Edgerrin James will not be a factor tonight. The Steelers only give up about 80 rushing yards per game, and James will be shut down. If he can be active as a receiver he might be worth something tonight, but I predict alot of Dominic Rhodes in passing downs and Edge polishing his gold teeth on the sidelines.
3. Dallas Clark will be huge again. Polamalu is a blitzing safety better at stopping the run. If he gets stuck with Clark in man to man coverage Manning can exploit this.
4. Special teams will decide this game. The Steelers have a great kicker and great return men. Randle El can give the Colts kick coverage fits if the Steelers can stay away from any blocks that even resemble being illegal, as the Colts have had the benefit in every game this year of getting all the calls. This will not change at home, especially on a Monday night.
5. The Steelers offense will hold a decided edge in TOP. Willie Parker will be starting, and he will be spelled by Bettis and Staley. Indy has not faced a goal line offense this good all year, I predict 2 or 3 4th and shorts get converted. If it's 2 of them, the third one will set up a play action to rookie tight end Heath Miller, who is the key to the Steelers offense tonight.
6. Hines Ward will torch whoever is guarding him. After the field day Chad Johnson and Chris Henry had last week vs the undersized Colts D-Backfield, Ward will chew them up. Look for them to look for Heath Miller in the end zone a couple of times tonight, he is quickly becoming a Roethlisberger security blanket.
This is the type of team that can expose Indy's weaknesses. I believe a running clock and a tough defense will be the Colt's undoing. If they win, it will be by no more than a field goal. I don't think they will win, though. Bob Griese, Larry Csonka and Don Shula, POP YOUR CORKS!!!!