Colts hope to interrupt the loss pattern in Pittsburgh | reverse sports activities

INDIANAPOLIS – Darius Leonard is never lacking in motivation, and much of it is self-generated.

But this week’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers has a unique taste for the linebacker, and he’s not enjoying it. During the Indianapolis Colts’ 26:24 defeat at Heinz Field last year, Leonard was called twice for personal fouls.

The first, just before half-time, resulted in three points that the home team would otherwise not have been able to achieve. The second erased a third-and-5, bringing the Steelers into the red zone en route to a touchdown.

Neither of the two memories brought much joy to the Pro Bowl defender this holiday season.

“I still have a bad taste in my mouth from last year,” said Leonard. “I feel like I’ve cost the team. … I know how it felt on the plane when people came up to me. That was a feeling you don’t want to feel again, and my mindset now is that I have to win in Pittsburgh. In my mindset, I have to win every game. So I’m hungry to be out there again, and hopefully we’ve got a win. “

Leonard leaves out the fact that future Hall of Fame kicker Adam Vinatieri missed a field goal in the final seconds that would have won the game despite the linebacker’s mistakes. But the fact remains that the loss was a turning point in a snake-bitten 2019 campaign.

It was the first loss in a 2-7 finish in which Indianapolis was eliminated from the playoff race after a 5-2 start.

The rematch on Sunday is even more important.

With a win and a loss for the Baltimore Ravens or the Miami Dolphins, the Colts (10-4) can only reach their second playoff place since 2014. One win and one loss for the Tennessee Titans would return control of AFC South to Indianapolis and offer a chance to win the first division title in six years at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars next week.

However, loss, coupled with victories for the Ravens and Dolphins, would drop the Colts outside the playoff picture and would take the team to get back on track next week, even if it ends with 11 wins.

The stakes are no less important for Pittsburgh (11: 3), as there is an impressive series of three defeats. A loss and a win for the Cleveland Browns would spark a battle for the AFC North title next week.

That would be a steep fall for a team that started 11-0 and finished first in the AFC until they lost to the Buffalo Bills on the street two weeks ago. The Steelers’ other two defeats during their current skid have met teams with record losses – the Washington Football Team (6-8) and the Cincinnati Bengals (3-10-1).

The first of those losses came at home, but that’s probably no consolation for a Colts franchise that’s between 2 and 16 years old in the Steel City. Indianapolis hasn’t won at Pittsburgh since it was spotlighted on Peyton Manning in 2008.

The only other road win against the Steelers came in 1968, when the franchise was still based in Baltimore.

That story won’t have any impact on Sunday, but another longstanding tradition could be – Pittsburgh’s defense of the steel curtain.

“They always have good defenses and they pride themselves on that,” said Nick Sirianni, Indianapolis offensive coordinator. “You have great people up front. (TJ) Watt is a great player. (Cameron) Hayward is a great player. I don’t want to leave anyone out because they have a great front 7. Then they have good players at every level. (Joe) Haden has been good for a long time. (Minkah) Fitzpatrick is really good security, really good security. I just think they have players at every level.

“We have to be there. That’s for sure. We’re going to play our best football game. “

The Steelers were especially good at taking the ball away. Their 25 forced sales are second in the league, but Indianapolis has the third smallest freebies in the NFL at 12.

This will be a critical battle throughout the game.

Despite the high level of commitment, the Colts got closer to training like every other week.

Likewise, they paid little attention to their story of failure in Pittsburgh.

As always, the goal is to go 1-0 and become a better team than the week before.

“It’s a new year,” said veteran recipient TY Hilton, dismissing the show’s past. “It is what it is, but we just have to bring it (Sunday).”

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