PITTSBURGH – Inclement weather caused several Central Indiana communities to postpone their Halloween celebrations this week.
The Indianapolis Colts saved their big scare for Sunday.
Pittsburgh has represented a house of horrors for the franchise historically. The Colts are just 2-14 all time on the road against the Steelers, and they’ve won just once in the series since 1968.
It’s a remarkable run of dominance that has not been dependent on coaching staffs or player personnel.
Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich considered talking to his team about that history ahead of Sunday’s matchup (1 p.m., CBS). But he ultimately thought better of it.
“Obviously, organizationally, they have gotten the best – the Steelers have gotten the best of the Colts – for a while here,” Reich said. “At the end of the day, (talking about it) kind of goes against the 1-0 mantra, you know what I mean? I just decided it really doesn’t matter.
“Nothing in the past matters, and nothing in the future matters. All that matters is what we do today – really, literally, today — to get ready to play this game, but I did think about it.”
The degree of difficulty increased Friday when four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was ruled out with a calf injury. Hilton is expected to miss up to four weeks, and his absence is sure to affect the offense.
His numbers – 32 catches, 360 yards and five touchdowns – are impressive enough. But the veteran’s mere presence on the field creates opportunities for his teammates.
Most defenses have rolled a safety in Hilton’s direction, at the very least, and a banged-up Pittsburgh secondary now will be able to play more straight forward coverage.
Zach Pascal’s star has been on the rise in recent weeks, and he’ll have a chance to carry more of the offensive load. Veteran Chester Rogers and youngsters Parris Campbell and Deon Cain also figure to be factors.
But the most obvious way for the Colts (5-2) to combat Hilton’s absence is to return to their running roots.
For all the remarkable performances running back Marlon Mack has had this season, he’s topped the 100-yard mark just twice through the first seven games. Revving up the ground game will rank near the top of Indianapolis’ list of priorities.
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett addressed the locker room after Hilton was injured in Wednesday’s practice, and he also talked to the team earlier in the week.
That first speech was focused on playing smart on the road. Heinz Field is certain to be a hostile environment, and Indianapolis needs to avoid presnap penalties and turnovers in much the same way it did during a Week 5 win at Kansas City.
“Just keep playing our game,” Brissett said. “Obviously, you deal with other things because of playing on the road, but at the end of the day it all comes back to playing your style of football and trying to stay error free as much as possible playing on the road because that’s when a lot of bad things happen. But I think it will just come down to us just playing our game.”
The Colts did receive some potentially good news Saturday. Veteran cornerback Pierre Desir – who has been dealing with a hamstring injury for weeks and missed last week’s game against the Denver Broncos – was upgraded from doubtful to questionable on the injury list.
If Desir can go, Indianapolis will be able to match him up against star Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and take some responsibility off rookie cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, who struggled mightily against the Broncos.
That could be a big factor in what’s likely to be another close contest. Pittsburgh’s starting running back, James Conner, is doubtful with a shoulder injury, and his primary backup, Benny Snell Jr., is out with a knee injury.
Those absences would increase the pressure on second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph, making his sixth start in place of injured Ben Roethlisberger.
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Rudolph has been mostly efficient – 63.8 completion percentage, 897 yards, nine touchdowns, three interceptions – even if he’s lacked big plays through five games this season.
“I think they’re coached up well,” Colts defensive end Justin Houston said. “I think their coach is going to put him in position to make plays. He’s not going to put too much on him. He’s just going to let him play fast and let him do his job.
“They have a great offensive line. They’ve got great running backs. So our job is going to be tough this week.”
That’s a prevailing theme in the Indianapolis locker room.
All seven of the Colts’ games this season have been decided by one score, and there’s no reason to believe this one will be any different.
Indianapolis had to grind out a 15-13 win in the final seconds last week against Denver, and it expects a similar challenge from the Steelers (3-4).
“They’re a really physical team,” left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. “They’ve got a great (defensive) front. It’s definitely gonna be a brawl type of a game.”