The Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers are set to square off on Sunday Night Football this weekend in a preseason edition which promises to give football fans a thrilling glimpse at some play-making rookies.
Luck was drafted first overall by the Colts last spring to help rebuild a franchise just a few seasons removed from a Super Bowl title. He'll have to make Colts fans forget about future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning in the process.
The former Stanford Cardinal is not the only rookie worth watching this weekend, though.
Here are the fresh new names you should be on the lookout for Sunday night in Pittsburgh.
Former Florida Gators running back Chris Rainey was a phenomenal playmaker at the University of Florida and has already shown flashes of that same ability in the NFL as a rookie. Rainey struggled running the ball in Pittsburgh's preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, rushing for just one yard on four carries, but he excelled in the passing game.
Rainey caught two balls for 65 yards and a touchdown in Philadelphia, scoring on a 57-yard TD pass from Jerrod Johnson. It certainly didn't take long for Rainey's explosion to be noticed, and it's not hard to see why Pittsburgh drafted him 159th overall in the fifth round last April.
Rainey's speed and game-changing talent will bring a new style to the Steelers' backfield this coming season. Rainey touched the ball 202 times at Florida in 2011, amassing more than 1,200 yards and four touchdowns. Be on the lookout for one of football's fastest playmakers on Sunday night.
The No. 1 pick in 2012 was sensational in the Colts' preseason opener against the St. Louis Rams. Although it was the Rams, who have been dreadful in recent years, Luck completed 10-of-16 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Luck also avoided experiencing his first NFL sack, which is a plus.
He'll be pitted against a much more fierce defense in the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, though. Pittsburgh routinely ranks atop the league against the run and pass and rarely makes life easy for opposing quarterbacks, let alone rookies.
Fans tuning in must take a close look at Luck in the first two quarters to see how comfortable he looks running Indy's offense on the road for the first time, and against a Super Bowl contender in the Steelers.
Indianapolis Colts' rookie running back Vick Ballard was relatively unknown coming into the NFL this offseason, but made a big splash in his first career preseason game against the Rams last Sunday. Ballard ran the ball six times for 28 yards in the Colts' blowout win, and caught a pass for 11 yards as well.
Ballard rushed for nearly 1,200 yards for the Mississippi State Bulldogs in 2011, scoring 10 touchdowns and averaging 6.2 yards per carry for the SEC program. Ballard was taken nine spots ahead of Pittsburgh's Chris Rainey in the fifth round.
Ballard certainly has potential at the next level. Before his standout 2011 season with the Bulldogs, he rushed for 19 touchdowns for Mississippi State in 2010. If Ballard can continue to average 4.7 yards per carry out of the Colts' back field, then he will earn himself a boatload of carries in 2012. Fans in Indy should be excited about their rookie rusher.
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