Colts vs Steelers: Live Preseason Week 2 Report Card for Indianapolis
In the final seconds, the Steelers topped the Colts 26-24, but the final score is hardly relevant to anything.
All game long, I tracked the performance by each unit of the Indianapolis Colts. From Andrew Luck to Chandler Harnish and from Dwight Freeney to Justin Hickman, grades were given to each facet of the game.
Now that the zeros are up on the clock, check in to see how the Colts graded out.
Andrew Luck: B+
16-of-25, 175 yards, 2 INT
It was a tale of two quarters for Luck. At the end of the first, his Colts were trailing 14-0, thanks in part to a pick-six he threw.
At the end of the second, the score was 17-14 Colts, thanks in part to his outstanding play.
There were mistakes. Luck could have hurried up to get a play off before a challenge. He also stared down Reggie Wayne and gave up a pick-six.
However, he was also not helped by some blown calls and bad line play. His rally to end the first quarter was impressive.
Luck managed two touchdown drives, and tacked on a field goal for good measure. His only miscue was a perfectly thrown third down pass that hit T.Y. Hilton in the chest and bounced up for an interception.
For Luck to rebound from his pick-six and answer with authority was outstanding. He averaged 7.0 yards a pass despite 25 throws in the first half. Given that he rushed for a score and had a sure touchdown turned into an interception, his actually play was substantially better than his numbers.
Drew Stanton: B
4-of-13, 69 yards, 1 TD
Stanton led three drives, picking up one touchdown. He wasn't always accurate, but did have a couple of nice throws. 69 yards on just four completions is impressive, but he struggled with accuracy all night.
Chandler Harnish: D
3-of-9, 45 yards, 1 INT
Harnish threw a couple of beautiful passes downfield to Griff Whalen, but ultimately his interception in Steelers territory might have cost Indianapolis a win. He certainly throws a pretty deep ball, though. Don't be surprised to see him land on Indy's practice squad.
Donald Brown: A
Six carries for 30 yards, one touchdown; one catch for nine yards.
Brown had a nice rebound after a slow start. He ripped off a 21-yard run to set up Indy's first score, again emphasizing his knack for big plays.
Vick Ballard: B-
10 carries for 34 yards
Ballard showed some flashes of both burst and ability to run over people and his final numbers were depressed by several goal-line carries. He was robbed of a touchdown by a phantom overturn on replay.
Darren Evans: D
Six carries for 15 yards
Evans is a local kid and everyone in Indianapolis wishes him the best, but he's the odd man out on this roster.
Austin Collie: Incomplete
I hate to list Collie at all, but he took a vicious hit early in the game and left. His health is a serious concern. At this time, there has been no word about his injury, but given his history of head trauma, many are understandably worried.
Reggie Wayne: A
Six catches, 74 yards
Wayne was his usual outstanding self, finding ways to get open. He was the recipient of Luck's prettiest pass of the night, a pretty lob over a defender for a big gain.
Wayne was Luck's target on his first interception.
T.Y. Hilton: D
Hilton turned a sure touchdown into an interception by bobbling, then batting a third-down pass right into the arms of a defender.
To his credit, he rebounded strong and made a couple of plays after that point, but it was hard to remember anything but his screw up.
LaVon Brazill: B
He has great speed and made a couple of catches. I think he's going to be Indy's third receiver this year.
Griff Whalen: A
Whalen is desperately trying to make the squad as an undrafted free agent. He's likely going to land on the practice squad, but if injuries to Collie and Donnie Avery persist, he could steal a roster spot by attrition.
Dwayne Allen: B
Two catches for 18 yards
Allen made a couple of plays early and continues to impress in all phases of the game.
Coby Fleener: B+
Three catches for 33 yards
Fleener made a couple of nice plays, and contributed in the one-minute drill to end the half. He did a nice job as the hot route for Luck on a key completion.
The line was all over the place against the Steelers. Early in the game, Luck was under pressure all first quarter and there was no run game to speak of.
However, the run and pass blocking improved dramatically as Indy moved the ball with ease every time they possessed it in the second quarter.
In the second half, Stanton wasn't sacked, but was under a rush most of the quarter. There wasn't much room opened in the running game.
Harnish also avoided a sack, but again, the Colts didn't run the ball effectively.
The Steelers have a good defense, and overall things could have been worse.
It's notoriously difficult to grade a 3-4 line without examining tape, but on the day the Steelers rushed for for just over four yards a carry, and were sacked three times.
Perhaps the best thing that can be said for them is that they weren't completely manhandled.
Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney were invisible once again, but perennial bust Jerry Hughes made another strong showing.
He's playing for his job, and he showed excellent pursuit in the run game and picked up a sack as well. He also led the team in tackles with six.
The rest of the linebackers were conspicuously absent with the exception of Mario Addison who showed up in the opposing backfield all night.
The overall defensive game was reasonably solid, so I'm going to overlook the troubles by the starting unit.
Jerraud Powers forced a fumble and Antoine Bethea picked off a pass in the first quarter. Of course, the secondary also got torched for a 57 yard pass.
Powers again showed why he's the biggest figure for the Colts. Indy came up with several third-down stops.
There were some late breakdowns by the secondary in the fourth quarter, and it became quickly evident how thin the unit is.
Powers and Bethea rate high marks. The rest of the unit is suspect to say the least.
Aside from a noble effort to block the game winning field goal and a made kick of 53-yards by Adam Vinatieri, there wasn't much to celebrate by the Colts.
They botched a coffin-corner punt. There was a blocked punt. There were penalties.
It was a lousy night on the whole.
Chuck Pagano ordered an indefensible punt on fourth and short in Steelers territory which turned into a touchdown for Pittsburgh, and several of Indianapolis's early plays on offense were non-starters and looked poorly conceived.
That's where the criticism ends for Pagano.
Not only did the offense look a lot better in the second quarter, Pagano made a pair of brilliant decisions.
First, he went for it on fourth down at the goal line, leading to an Indianapolis touchdown.
Second, he let Andrew Luck come back out to run a 1-minute drive. It was the perfect chance to get real in-game experience in a pressure situation and resulted in points for the Colts.
He kept his team positive and together and made the right move at the end of the game by calling timeouts to preserve a final chance for his offense.
He might have considered letting the Steelers score in a real game, but in preseason, he's more interested in seeing guys play in goal-line situations.
All things considered, it was a good road trip for his team.
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