To close out a wild Week 12, the Indianapolis Colts play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night.
The Colts are 1-1 under interim head coach Jeff Saturday, having defeated the Raiders in his debut before losing a close one to the Eagles last week. The Steelers, meanwhile, are just 2-4 since making the switch to rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett under center, and have scored more than 20 points in just one of those games.
The Steelers are, as usual, winning with defense when they do win, and they'll try to do so again on Monday night. The Colts would surely love to grind this game down with Jonathan Taylor, but that's easier said than done against Pittsburgh's defensive front.
Which of these two teams will get back in the win column? We'll find out soon enough. Before we break down the matchup, here's how you can watch the game.
How to watch
Date: Monday, Nov. 28 | Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)
TV: ESPN | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
Follow: CBS Sports App
Odds: Colts -2.5, O/U 39.5 (courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook)
When the Steelers have the ball
The Colts are dealing with a bunch of injuries on defense. Shaq Leonard and Tyquan Lewis are on injured reserve. Kwity Paye was ruled out for this game. DeForest Buckner seems like he'll play after getting in a full practice late in the week, but Yannick Ngakoue was added to the injury report as limited on Thursday and then DNP on Friday, which isn't a great sign.
Pittsburgh has struggled to run the ball throughout the season, with Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren repeatedly getting contacted in the backfield on their carries. That seems unlikely to change against a group that ranks sixth in the NFL in rush defense DVOA at Football Outsiders, and that has allowed just 1.31 yards before contact per rush attempt this season, according to TruMedia. (That's the sixth-lowest figure in the league.)
With Warren out due to injury, Harris will likely see the significant majority of the backfield work, and while he's looked better of late (20 carries for 99 yards two weeks ago, 20 for 90 and two touchdowns last week), this is not the best matchup. The Colts have been more vulnerable on passes to running backs and tight ends in the short areas of the field than they have to the run game, which actually works out well for Harris and Pat Freiermuth, who are two of Kenny Pickett's top targets. Especially with Leonard out, Freiermuth could have a nice night working the soft spots in Indianapolis' zone coverage.
Pickett has been incredibly inefficient when targeting Diontae Johnson on the outside, and not all that much better when targeting rookie George Pickens. The Colts have a solid coverage group that should hold its own in this matchup, with Stephon Gilmore, Kenny Moore II, and Isaiah Rodgers plenty capable of hanging with what Pittsburgh has to offer on the perimeter.
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When the Colts have the ball
Indianapolis has unsurprisingly ridden Jonathan Taylor hard since his return from injury, handing him 22 carries in each of the past two games. That strategy was unsurprisingly more successful against the Raiders (147 yards, 6.7 per carry) than it was against the Eagles (84 yards, 3.8 per carry), but we should nonetheless expect it to continue here.
Pittsburgh has the league's seventh-ranked run defense by DVOA this season, though, so the Colts may find tougher sledding there. The Steelers have stopped 20% of opponent runs at or behind the line of scrimmage, the eighth-highest mark in the NFL, while the Colts have also been stopped at or behind the line at the same rate. Indy's offensive line has taken a significant step backward this season, and is no longer the dominant unit we have come to expect over the past several years. Especially with T.J. Watt back in the mix, Pittsburgh has the advantage among the two groups up front.
Watt and Co. pose an even greater challenge for the Colts in pass protection, where they have struggled badly throughout the season. The Colts rank 29th in Pro Football Focus' pass-blocking grades and 28th in Football Outsiders' Adjusted Sack Rate. They've allowed pressure on more than 35% of dropbacks, per TruMedia, one of the highest rates in the league. Pittsburgh has not generated pressure at as high a rate this season as you'd expect, but a lot of that is due to Watt having missed a significant chunk of the year.
When Matt Ryan looks downfield, he's most often looking for either Michael Pittman or, recently, Parris Campbell. In Ryan's last four starts, Campbell has gone for 7-51-1, 10-70-1, 7-76-1, and 5-67-0. With Ahkello Witherspoon again out for this game, the Steelers will have Cameron Sutton, Levi Wallace, and Arthur Maulet as their trio or cornerbacks. None is necessarily all that imposing a matchup, but neither is Ryan all that imposing a passer to deal with at this point in his career.
Prediction: Steelers 16, Colts 13