Steelers vs. Colts: 5 Reasons to Pity Peyton Manning-Less Indy in Week 3

Justin SparksCorrespondent IIISeptember 21, 2011

Steelers vs. Colts: 5 Reasons to Pity Peyton Manning-Less Indy in Week 3

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    The Indianapolis Colts host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a prime-time matchup on Sunday night, as two veteran quarterbacks square off in what very well could be an AFC Championship preview.

    Well, that's how the game would have been marketed before Peyton Manning forfeited his stab at Brett Favre's ironman record. 

    The Steelers travel to Indianapolis this weekend to face a team that has more issues than can be counted on one hand. Everything from the obvious—the quarterback position—to the under-the-surface problems like the locker room continuity.

    Peyton Manning is the Indianapolis Colts. The Indianapolis Colts are Peyton Manning. After over a decade-long run with the same guy under center, the long run of success that has preceded the Colts now has revealed several flaws in what appeared to be a well-run organization.

    All we can do at this point is speculate how bad this team could be and pity them for their follies.

1. The Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The NFL's flagship organization rolls into Indianapolis this weekend licking their chops at the prospect of playing the Indianapolis Colts. Not having to watch Peyton Manning perform a surgical masterpiece on their defense will be a welcomed occasion.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Rooney family have run one of the best sporting franchises in North America for decades now. Steeler nation extends far and wide, showing up to away games in bunches as if it were a college football game. They represent the picture of excellence, success and balance every organization in this league desires.

    The Colts have been forced to take a deep look in the mirror and realize they do not look as good as they once appeared.

    Indianapolis lost to the Cleveland Browns at home in Week 2. Not to discredit the Browns, but that probably does not happen with Manning pointing out blitzes and changing packages at the line of scrimmage.

    1998 was the last time the Colts started off 0-2. In fact, that year, they started off 0-4 before Manning earned his first regular season win in the NFL as a rookie. Thus far through the 2011 season, they are on track to match their 0-4 record from 1998.

    Hosting the Steelers does not help their cause in trying to avoid their worst start in 13 seasons. If anything, playing the Super Bowl runners-up seems unfair and unfortunate for a team desperate for something to hang their heads on.

2. Kerry Collins Stinks

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    Kerry Collins never was considered a stud during his hay day in the NFL. Never really considered a top-five quarterback, and some would even argue he was never a legitimate top-10 quarterback.

    A fun fact for all your buddies in your fantasy league: Kerry Collins holds the record for the 10th-most career passing yards in NFL history with over 40,000 yards.

    Assuming that either the Indianapolis Colts knew Manning would be out longer than anticipated (like an entire season) or that he might have to miss the first couple games, they knew they weren't giving the ropes to Curtis Painter: enter Kerry Collins.

    The Colts front office hoped Collins would be the next Brett Favre. Come out of retirement, spot-gap for a few games or one year and earn one last NFL paycheck before retiring into obscurity. 

    However, not everything goes as planned in this league.

    Kerry Collins was incessantly awful in Week 1 versus the Houston Texans. He threw for just under 200 yards in his Colts debut, but managed to toss a garbage time touchdown to Reggie Wayne.

    Week 2 did not see much improvement either. In fact, he probably regressed, as he recorded the second-worst quarterback rating in the league for Week 2 losing the home opener versus the Cleveland Browns.

    Watching the Colts refuse to show any pride in rallying around their veteran "leader" will be tough to watch on Sunday night. Collins faces one of the meanest defenses in the league and couldn't manage to score a touchdown until the fourth quarter against both the Texans and the Browns.

3. James Harrison

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    I have already touched on the Pittsburgh Steelers in a broad sense going into Sunday night's game, but it's time to be specific. By specific, I mean the one and only James Harrison.

    To think that James Harrison will finally get a chance to face the Indianapolis Colts and not have to listen to Peyton Manning's antics at the line of scrimmage brings me joy. Why, you may ask? It's pretty simple. I enjoy watching him eat quarterbacks as if they were a delicious pastrami on rye.

    Whether you care for Harrison's distasteful off-the-field issues is irrelevant; the man can play.

    He was fined excessively by the league in 2010 for hits that were legal—according to the letter of the law—and he doesn't care if he gets fined again. He's going to keep laying the wood. All the power to him if he's willing to write the big check.

    To be honest, this game should not be on primetime television. NBC would opt out of this game in a heartbeat if it were later in the season, but at this point, schedule switching programming is not an option.

    So I plead with you, my fellow compatriots, to tune in to watch what has become a dying play under Roger Goodell, the quarterback smack down. James Harrison will be on the prowl Sunday night, and he's hunting quarterback.

    The question is whether he'll land another controversial kill shot on his prey.

4. Locker Room Discontent

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    The one player who probably feels disconnected from his new quarterback the most is wide receiver Reggie Wayne. The longtime target of Peyton Manning did not exactly welcome Kerry Collins with open arms upon arrival in August.

    His thoughts about the situation back in August seemed to speak not only for him, but the entire locker room.

    "We don’t even know him, we ain’t vanilla, man, we ain’t no simple offense. I don’t care who you are, I mean, I’m not going to let anyone just come in here and just push someone aside like you’re that dog now; you know what I mean?"

    Wayne's comments showcased his loyalty towards Manning and the other quarterbacks that were on the roster prior to Collins' arrival. The quotes come off as if Wayne did not want to believe Manning wouldn't be there for the start of the season, or possibly a good chunk it.

    A week or so after they signed Collins, news out of Indianapolis confirmed Peyton Manning could miss part or all of the season.

    As a leader and one of the longest tenured players on the team, Reggie Wayne made a massive mistake in airing his frustrations to the media. The team heard his message and the tone with which it had been delivered.

    Two weeks into the season, and the team clearly has shown signs of resistance to the change in leadership. Both the offense and defense have struggled mightily coming to grips with the situation.

    They must show some pride and not mail in the season after just two week and rally around Collins. However, that looks like even that might be asking too much from the Colts at the moment.

5. The Lockout

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    Peyton Manning has started every single game since his rookie season in 1998. Not missing a single start as he accumulated wins over the years.

    Because of this, the front office for the Indianapolis Colts did not have to get too creative with fielding a team. Build the team around Manning and his skills set and let him go to work.

    Even the coaching staff adopted this philosophy. They drew up the different plays and the game plans, but both were tentative due to Manning's ability to exploit defenses by audibling at the line of scrimmage.

    Everything in the entire organization had been centered around their future Hall-of-Fame quarterback.

    There's one big problem with that: injuries happen. The master of getting rid of the ball before you could touch him and the maestro at avoiding precarious plays that could result in injury got hurt.

    Manning injured a part of his body that frequently does not have a set timetable for full recovery. Not only did he get hurt and need surgery, but it came at the worst possible time in his career due to the lockout.

    Any other season, and the Colts probably would have Manning under center. The lockout prevented Manning from seeing the organization's medical staff on a daily basis and required him to seek outside consultation for his injury.

    Not having access to his team's medical staff and facilities on a daily basis set him back after undergoing surgery. Being forced to fly across the country from his home to the different specialists takes its toll.

    The lockout barred the Colts quarterback from receiving the desired treatment necessary in Indianapolis. Couple that with the organizational structure centered solely around Manning from top to bottom, and you have a franchise that has been left exposed with no viable secondary options whatsoever.