The Indianapolis Colts face the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field at 8pm EDT for NBC'S first Sunday Night Football game of the year.
NBC will stream the game live online as well, and you can check it out here.
If Andrew Luck ever falls, it will be a very long time before he hits the ground. The Colts rookie quarterback threw a touchdown on this very first pass in the NFL en route to a 38-3 blowoutover the St. Louis Rams.
Luck eventually finished 10-16 with two touchdowns and 188 yards. The 2012 No. 1 overall pick will try to build on that success against a Steelers' defense known for leaving opposing quarterbacks dazed and confused.
Veterans Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie will be Luck's best friends amongst the receivers, but several others are competing for the third and reserve receiver spots. Leading the way are Quan Cosby and LaVon Brazill, who each snagged three balls for 44 and 38 yards respectively against St. Louis. Former Florida International standout T.Y. Hilton also pulled down three receptions for 25 yards, and more than likely has the punt returner job locked down.
The Colts are waning at linebacker after third-year man Pat Angerer fractured his foot during camp. Look for rookie Jerrell Freeman, straight out of three years in the Canadian Football League with no NFL game experience, to get a shot. The 6-foot Freeman had four total tackles against the Rams.
If he doesn't pan out, the opportunity could land at the feet of Moise Fokou, in his fourth year from Maryland. Rookies Mario Harvey and Greg Lloyd are a long shot to land the starting gig, but will have a chance if Freeman and Fokou don't' rise to the occasion.
The Steelers just came off a closer battle against the Philadelphia Eagles, losing 24-23 in their first preseason action, but injuries remain their main storyline.
Pittsburgh's two running backs atop the depth chart, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, are still getting healthy. Redman is out due to a sore groin, Dwyer just returned to practice this week after a shoulder injury, and leading rusher of 2011 Rashard Mendenhall was just removed from the physically-unable-to-perform list.
All these casualties leave second-year Baron Batch and rookie Chris Rainey as the lone healthy backs. Batch ran down 41 yards on 19 carries against the Eagles, and could get just as many touches Sunday.
Indy offensive coordinator Bruce Arians spent five seasons with the Steelers, but was replaced by former Kansas City play-caller Todd Haley. Haley has a tough road ahead of him with all the injuries, especially since team president Art Rooney II said he wants continuity in the ground game.
Then there is two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was very close to Arians. Haley needs Roethlisberger to buy into his system, but he also has to protect him. He's been hit more than any quarterback in the league the past few seasons, and even 6-foot-5 241-pound players feel pain.
Pittsburgh did attempt to improve the offensive line, specifically drafting rookie David DeCastro from Stanford. Also third-year pro Maurkice Pouncey has slimmed down to just over 300 pounds, and is reported to be in the best shape of his career
Yet against Philadelphia little seemed to change. The offensive line gave up seven sacks for a loss of 57 yards. Roethlisberger felt two of those and ended up going 7-8 for 49 yards.
Prediction: Luck has never seen a defense like Pittsburgh's, even if they are banged up. If the Batch and Rainey combo can step up and provide a run game, Roethlisberger should make big gains down field.
Predicted Score: Indianapolis 24 Pittsburgh 10
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