Pittsburgh at Indianapolis
When: 8:30 PM ET, Thursday, November 24, 2016
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
Back-to-back wins have vaulted the Indianapolis Colts back into the playoff picture, but they are nearly certain to be without Andrew Luck when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night. Luck, who is having another strong campaign as he ranks fourth in the NFL with 2,827 yards passing with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions, entered concussion protocol after guiding Indianapolis past Tennessee last week, and coach Chuck Pagano doesn’t believe he’ll be cleared in time to play.
Scott Tolzien, who has played in six games in his six-year career, will get the start should Luck not be ready. Tolzien is 56-of-91 for 721 yards with a touchdown and five interceptions in the NFL. Pittsburgh not only snapped its four-game losing streak with a win over lowly Cleveland last time out, but it jumped into a first-place tie in the AFC North in the process. Le’Veon Bell rushed for 146 yards and a score as the Steelers sent the Browns to their 11th straight loss on Sunday.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Steelers -3. O/U: 54
ABOUT THE STEELERS (5-5): Bell has been an all-purpose monster since returning from a three-game suspension to start the season, but Sunday marked the first time since Week 4 that he gained over 100 yards on the ground for the Steelers, who rank 23rd in rushing offense. Bell’s success took some of the burden off Ben Roethlisberger, who was held without a touchdown pass in a contest which surprisingly was still in doubt until Javon Hargrave recovered a fumble for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Roethlisberger threw four TD passes as Pittsburgh hammered Indianapolis 45-10 last season, another game in which the Colts played without Luck, and the Steelers – who have won the last two matchups by a combined 45 points – cautioned his counterpart not to play. “I will tell him, and this has nothing to do with football, but just to be smart,” Roethlisberger told reporters. “The brain is nothing to mess with. He is young and has a long career ahead of himself.”
ABOUT THE COLTS (5-5): Clearing concussion protocol is a huge hurdle for Luck in the short week, and the fact that the Colts don’t play again until Dec. 5 against the New York Jets leaves it likely they’ll let both Luck and safety Clayton Geathers use the extra time to get well. Geathers also was placed in concussion protocol after Sunday’s game and cornerback Vontae Davis is questionable with an ankle injury, leaving the Colts’ passing defense in an ominous situation against Roethlisberger, who has thrown 10 touchdown passes in his last two games against Indianapolis. The Colts may try to lean more on a ground game led by Frank Gore (642 yards, four touchdowns), but they rank 25th in the league in rushing.
1. Steelers WR Antonio Brown leads the NFL with 77 receptions and is fourth with 907 yards.
2. Colts K Adam Vinatieri missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt last week, breaking his the NFL-record streak of 44 consecutive conversions.
3. Pittsburgh has injury concerns of its own, especially at wide receiver as Sammie Coates is dealing with three broken fingers, Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot) is out and Marcus Wheaton (shoulder) has landed on injured reserve.