Fantasy Football News

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Colts at Steelers Live Blog: Primetime Preseason Action

It's only Week 2 of the preseason, I know. But it's primetime football and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck will be making his road debut, in Pittsburgh's Heinz Field of all places.

It'll be quite the test for the young signal caller, but I'm sure he's well-prepared for it. This will be the second chance for fans to get a look at Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley's reinvented offense.

Running back continues to be the position that has haunted Pittsburgh early on, with Isaac Redman suffering a hip injury. The injury will not require surgery, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, and he will likely be able to return to the practice field early this week, but he will not be available for tonight's game.

Rashard Mendenhall was just activated from the PUP list this week, but clearly he still may not be able to play the entire month of September.

What exactly does this mean? Well, until we figure out how serious the Redman injury is, it appears as though the rest of the Pittsburgh running backs will be under the microscope tonight (and for the rest of the preseason).

Baron Batch, John Clay, Jonathan Dwyer and rookie Chris Rainey will be battling it out tonight and the last two weeks.

As for the Colts, the big headline for tonight–and every other time the Colts are even mentioned–will be Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick in April. He made a very impressive debut last weekend, and will look to add on to that in tonight's matchup with Pittsburgh's hard-nosed defense.

Here's the live-blog feed for tonight's game, I will be making edits and adding on to this as the night goes on...

6:57 PM eastern time: We are now just over an hour until kickoff in Heinz Field, here's a look at the field.

Found a couple of pre-game photos (from SNF on NBC's twitter page):

*If you would like updates straight from NBC, just follow their Twitter account @SNFonNBC

*Two great Twitter accounts to follow for Steelers and Colts news/updates: @Steelersdepot and @nflcolts

*Steelers: No Redman and Mendenhall tonight (as stated above), so I would expect for Dwyer to get the start. Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch and Jerrod Johnson is the QB rotation. Byron Leftwich will not play, according to head coach Mike Tomlin. No tackle Max Starks tonight, either.

Tomlin: "I'd like for them to play about as twice as long as they did last time out. That's always a general reference but I always reserve the right to change it based on circumstance, performance, time of possession and things of that nature." (as told to earlier this week)

*Indy's offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will be facing his old team. It's only preseason, but you know Arians will want to stick it to his old employers after the awkward exit in Pittsburgh this offseason. Should be interesting to watch tonight.

*Former St. Louis Rams wideout Donnie Avery will likely miss his second preseason game in a row for the Colts tonight. According to reports, he could end up being Indy's slot receiver this season if he can stay healthy.

Former Pittsburgh wideout Hines Ward joined the NBC Sunday Night Football coverage team this offseason after his retirement from the game. The long-time Steeler will be making his debut as an analyst in the city he played for over the last 14 seasons (pictured below w/ sportscaster Dan Hicks from @SNFonNBC))

8 PM ET: NBC's coverage is kicking off as we speak. Meaning kick-off will come in about five minutes. Dan Hicks and Cris Collinsworth will be calling the game in the booth.

*Protection for Roethlisberger (with two rookies on the O-line) will be very key for Pittsburgh this season. For Indianapolis? A potent running game to take pressure off Luck.

*It will be interesting to see how Andrew fares under pressure. St. Louis didn't stand a chance against Indy last week, falling 38-3. Pittsburgh will be a different story as Dick LeBeau is sure to bring the heat tonight. This will be the first real test for Luck.

Tomlin to Michelle Tafoya prior to game:

"He's got a passion for winning" on new OC Todd Haley.

"We're taking it day-to-day" on Redman injury.

"It was good. Not good for a rookie, good for any quarterback" on Luck's debut last Sunday.

First Quarter

8:07 ET: Colts kickoff to Steelers. Kick sails over rookie Rainey's head for a touchback. Here comes Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh O.

8:10 ET: Dwyer does, in fact, get the start as expected and takes the first two plays of the game for a first down. He'll get a lot of playing time tonight according to Collinsworth.

Rainey is down after being popped by Jerraud Powers on an end-around (third play of game). Rainey fumbled the ball on the play after a solid gain, however wideout Emmanuel Sanders did recover. Timeout taken for Rainey injury (appears to be his head), and updates on the extent of his injury will be on the way.

Personal thought: I always love NBC's football teasers/commercials. Just saw the one for the Sunday Night Week 1 matchup of Denver and Pittsburgh. Just gets you even more pumped for the start of the season in September.

8:13 ET: Cory Redding just limped off the field for the Colts. Not even three minutes in and we've already seen two players leave due to injury. Bad news.

Will be interesting to see how Indy's transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense will go this season. Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, former d-ends, will be playing outside linebacker.

8:15 ET: Roethlisberger is picked off on this opening drive by Antoine Bethea, intended for Antonio Brown. We will get our first look at Luck in just a few minutes.

*Pagano and Arians are showing us that they would like to keep it safe with Luck so far...first three pass attempts are under five yards, just one of them completed. Three & out for Indy as Roethlisberger will come out for his second possession with 10:45 remaining in the opening quarter.

*It's been reported that Pittsburgh inside linebacker Stephen Sylvester will be out for 3-4 weeks with a torn MCL in his left knee. Along with RB, linebacker is one of Pittsburgh's thinnest positions at the moment due to injuries (James Harrison, Jason Worilds).

Mike Wallace to return this week? Who knows, but that's been the word on the street.

Injury update: Rainey being evaluated in the locker room for concussion symptoms. Indy's Redding being evaluated after injuring knee.

8:26 ET: Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown for a 57-yard touchdown reception. Caught a short pass and turned it into a long run on 3rd and 4. The extra point makes it 7-0 Steelers.

*Austin Collie, who's already had a history of concussions, has left the game after that hit.

*Indianapolis sure does have quite a few young, quick receivers. They'll see their fare share of playing time this preseason, too.

8:40 ET: So far Pitt's defense has been giving Luck the jitters, it appears. Has made some errant passes (2/7, 16 yards) and hasn't done much of anything in Indy's first 2 possessions. Acceptable for a youngster.

*Shoulder strain for Colts' Mathis. He's done for the night. No word on Collie yet.

8:43 ET: Steeles' Ike Taylor just picked off Luck and took it to the house. Luck pretty much handed him that one as he stared down the receiver. The 49-yard return and extra point puts Pittsburgh up 14-0 late in the first quarter of play.

8:49 ET: End of the first quarter, Pittsburgh 14-0. But following that INT TD, and a sack to start the current drive, Luck is driving this Indy offense down the field. Despite early struggles, Luck is keeping his head up and, as a quick learner, I'd say he bounces back from the vital mistake on the previous drive.

*PIT first quarter stats: 7 passes/8 runs...Dwyer 4 attempts, Batch 2, Rainey 1, Roethlisberger 1. Pittsburgh needs to spread the ball around to all backs and see who rises to the occasion.

*IND first quarter stats: 12 passes/4 runs. Luck is 6/12, 76 yards, 1 INT. Clearly Pagano wants to put the ball in Luck's hands early and often to see what he can do against this defense.

Second quarter

8:56 ET: Luck drives the Colts down the field after his INT and puts the ball into the end zone. 14-7 early in the second. Donald Brown capped the drive off with a one-yard run on third down. Drive went for 80 yards and took 10 plays. That's the kind of drive you'd like to see your franchise quarterback complete, even if it is only preseason. Did it with ease.

Photo from Brown's TD catch in first quarter (borrowed from's Facebook page):
Injury update: Collie being treated for concussion symptoms. Mathis will not return with a strained left knee.

9:07 ET: Luck's second pick of the night. This one wasn't even his fault. Receiver juggled it, knocked it into the air and it was picked off by Pittsburgh's Cortez Allen.

9:10 ET: Veteran Charlie Batch is now in for Roethlisberger with about 9 minutes to play in the second quarter.

*Pittsburgh's nose tackle Steve McLendon started out at 280 lbs., now apparently up to 320 as he has gained 10 pounds of muscle with each season he's been with the team. Casey Hampton was just activated off the PUP list, but McLendon has certainly made his case for the starting job this summer.

9:30 ET: Andrew Luck slides in from the one yard line to cap off his second scoring drive of the night at the two minute warning. Watching the replay, the ball clearly was not across the line (in my opinion), but the replay officials said it was. No official review took place, and the touchdown was counted. Knotted up at 14 with 1:56 in the opening half.

*The drive went 80 yards on 11 plays. Batch is back out for Pittsburgh (both QB Charlie and RB Baron).

Wow, had Charlie Batch really been with the Steelers for 11 years now? I certainly did not realize it's been that long. Seems like just yesterday he was Detroit's starter...Batch is 5-2 as Pittsburgh's starter.

9:36 ET: With :42 to play in the half, it appears Luck will come out for his final drive of the game. So, naturally, the Colts will run a couple of pass plays before he exits the game for good tonight.

Four time Super Bowl champ Adam Vinatieri just drilled a 53-yard field goal attempt as time expires in the half. Pittsburgh gets out to a 14-0 first quarter lead, but 17 unanswered points from Indy gives them a 17-14 halftime lead.

Halftime stats: Colts 17, Steelers 14...Luck: 16/25, 175 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT (3 scoring drives), Roethlisberger: 5/9, 81 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.

Total plays: IND 41, PIT 25...1st downs: IND 13, PIT yards: IND 229, PIT 151...pass yards: IND 170, PIT 96...rush yards: IND 59, PIT 55...T.O.P.: IND 18:19, PIT 11:41.

Can't imagine being Luck, and realizing that, "hey, the Colts just gave up one of the franchise's greatest quarterbacks of all-time in order to draft me with the first pick." That's a lot of pressure placed on the shoulders of a 22-year old. Clearly, of all guys, Andrew is the perfect person/player to replace a legend though.

Luck during pre-game warm-ups (via Colts' Facebook page) below:
*Ward just made his television debut, talking with Collinsworth during halftime. Didn't really say anything that caught my attention, but yet I still think I already like him more than Collinsworth. They should let Hicks call the game with Ward instead. Am I right??

Pagano at halftime: "Luck is unflappable"
Tomlin at halftime: "Looking for more physical play"

I agree, Luck doesn't seem to let mistakes both him for very long, as displayed this evening. As for Tomlin's comment, it's scary to think he wants them to be even more physical this evening. It's already been a hard-hitting first half. Should be interesting to see how backup Drew Stanton fares in the third.

Third quarter

9:56 ET: Stanton's first drive of tonight, early on in the third, ends with a punt by Pat Macafee, which is BLOCKED by Pittsburgh, setting Batch up with a 1st and goal at the IND 10-yard line.

*Pittsburgh's first round pick, right guard David DeCastro, is still in the game.

Score alert (10:01 ET): Tie game, 17-17. Daniel Hrapmann, undrafted free agent and backup to Shaun Suisham, hits a 25-yard field goal w/ just over 11 minutes to play in the third.

10:07 ET: T.Y. Hilton, the receiver that bobbled a Luck pass in the first half which resulted in his second INT of the game, just caught his second pass of the game. Play went for 29 yards on a pass from Stanton.

*Stanton started just four games (2-2 record) in his four seasons with the Detroit Lions from 2008-11. At 28, he signed a contract with the Jets in March, but after the Tebow acquisition he requested a release or trade. He ended up being traded to Indy (along with a 7th rd pick) for a sixth rounder two days after the request.

....And here he is throwing a four-yard TD pass to undrafted free agent rookie Griff Whalen. Caps off a 9-play, 74-yard drive in which Stanton went 4/7 for 69 yards. 24-17 Indy.

*Okay, DeCastro is now out at right guard. John Malecki replaces the rookie for Pittsburgh.

10:18 ET: Steelers Depot just tweeted that PIT's O-line is now Adams, Beachum, Legursky, Malecki and Essex here in the third quarter. Meaning rookie second round selection Mike Adams is still in the game at left tackle.

10:28 ET: David Gilreath is really showing us he wants a spot on this Pittsburgh roster. That's his second first down catch of the drive. First one went for 41 yards, this one for seven from Batch.

*Lots of great backstories from the young guys on this field tonight.

Score alert: Hrapmann with his second field goal of the night to pull the Steelers within four points, 24-20, after a 39-yarder.

Starks/Adams battle for left tackle position for Steelers is starting to get interesting. It's the only offensive line position that is questionable for the start of the season. Most other O-line positions seem to be set for Tomlin's Steelers.

It's 10:35 eastern time here, and the third quarter has come to a close with the score 24-20. I am expecting to see Jerrod Johnson at the QB position for the Steelers once they get the ball back. As for Indy, I think Stanton will at least finish out this current drive.

*Hines Ward will join the guys in the booth when the fourth quarter gets underway in a couple of minutes.

*Batch and Batch: Charlie went 7/10, 84 yards in third qtr; Baron ran for 19 yards on eight carries (only 2.4 YPC).

*Stanton threw for 69 yards on his four completions in his quarter of play. Made some incredible passes, but he's made some errant ones as well. A bit erratic, in my opinion.

Fourth quarter

10:40 ET: Twitter is blowing up right now, as it usually does when sporting events are taking place. Andrew Luck, Austin Collie, Charlie Batch, Colts and SNF are all trending in the United States at the current moment.

Oh hey, look at that. I was right about Johnson coming in for the fourth...well, duh, Tomlin said he wanted to see a lot of Johnson. But still, I'm going to pretend like I was way ahead of everyone else watching.

*Rookie Chris Rainey just called for a 15-yard chop block penalty, but it wasn't even a chop block. Mike Adams wasn't already engaged with the defender, so it shouldn't have been called on Rainey. It'll be 2nd and 22, nonetheless.

Cris Collinsworth, to no surprise, is sucking up to Hines Ward right now. I'm not sure I like this. Actually, I know I don't like this. It's a little too weird, Cris...

*Big fan of the mobility of Johnson, it's a different kind of mobility than Roethlisberger. Ben uses his strength to overpower defenders, Johnson just straight up outruns them. Nice change of pace.

Score alert: Hrapmann has continued to make a case for the starting role as PIT's placekicker, hitting a 43-yarder to make the game 24-23 with approximately 10 minutes to play in the game. At least this one's a close game.

Love the Eli Manning/DeMarcus Ware fantasy football commercial. I may be alone when I say this, but I think I enjoy Eli's commercials more than Peyton (in particular, his DirecTV commercials with Deion Sanders).

With the pace of the game slowing down quite a bit at this stage of the game, I've decided to post some action photos (from Colts official website, I do not own any of the images):
Not the best photos (^^^), but it's tough to find photos of games when the game is still being played. Soooo, this is what I was able to come up with.

*Again, I was right with an earlier statement. Stanton finished out the drive from the third quarter that carried over into the fourth before Chandler Harnish took over at QB. Harnish was this season's "Mr. Irrelevant," being picked with the final pick in this past April's draft.

Harnish, 24, was a four-year starter while playing his college ball at North Illinois University.

He threw for over 3,000 yards and 28 TDs (only 6 INTs) as a senior at NIU last season.

11:00 ET: Harnish has had a couple of connections over the middle with Griff Whalen, who now has three catches for 39 yards.

Well, I was just giving you all this positive vibe about Harnish, but then he goes and throws Indy's third pick of the night. Jerrod Johnson will get the chance to put PIT ahead again as we approach the five minute mark. Josh Victorian makes the pick.

*Gilreath has been making plays all over the place tonight. Made a great second effort after reaching up high for a Johnson pass. Evaded one tackler and got the first down. Now has four catches for 78 yards.

Wow, gotta be kidding me. Wearing Mewelde Moore's #21 jersey, rookie Jason Ford has ran for a couple of back-to-back first downs before being hit from behind and suffering an apparent injury–he has left the game for now. His 56 yards on six carries leads the Steelers tonight.

*Rainey showing he can make an impact this season, and I've really liked the guy so far this preseason. Showing some potential in this offense. Excited to see his versatility.

11:11 ET: Colts have used two timeouts just before the two minute warning. Clearly trying to save some time on the clock for them to come back and score if Pittsburgh takes the lead on this drive.

*Two minute warning and Johnson has the Steelers inside the five yard line after rushing for a first down on a play-action bootleg. What a play by the young guy.

When we return from the commercial break the Steelers will have a first and goal inside the five, as they are down by one. 24-23. Ford has returned to the game, fortunately for Pittsburgh. Likely just a cramp. I mean, it is late in the game.

*Johnson is 4-for-5 for 65 yards in this quarter.

Ford has been nicknamed "Mini Bus" by Collinsworth and Ward tonight. The 251 pounder was just stopped for a loss by Indy's front line on first down.

...And stopped for another loss on second. Three straight running plays (last one by Rainey) gets Pittsburgh nowhere, as they will have to settled for a fourth Hrapmann field goal after a 15-play drive. His attempt was blocked, but it still just barely split the uprights for a 26-24 score. Harnish has :20 to re-take the lead for a victory.

11:23 ET: Colts fall short on the final drive, failing to convert on 4th and 10.

Final: Steelers 26, Colts 24

Final thoughts: Well, not bad for my first live blog of the season, I'd say. Right? Am I right? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments section. Was it too short, too long? Too boring, not informative enough? You tell me!

As for the game, it was a pretty exciting game for a mid-preseason matchup, in my opinion. Primetime is always fun to watch and we did learn one thing: Andrew Luck has amnesia when it comes to making mistakes, and he didn't look much like a rookie in his 175-yard performance. He's obviously got some things to work on (like staring down that receiver), but a nice road debut against a stingy defense.

Well, it's about time for me to sign out for the night. Thanks for reading and be sure to come back for my thoughts on position battles and preseason matchups, among other things, this week.

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