Back-to-back wins have vaulted the Indianapolis Colts back into the playoff picture, but they are nearly certain to be without Andrew Luck when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night. Luck, who is having another strong campaign as he ranks fourth in the NFL with 2,827 yards passing with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions, entered concussion protocol after guiding Indianapolis past Tennessee last week, and coach Chuck Pagano doesn’t believe he’ll be cleared in time to play.
Scott Tolzien, who has played in six games in his six-year career, will get the start should Luck not be ready. Tolzien is 56-of-91 for 721 yards with a touchdown and five interceptions in the NFL. Pittsburgh not only snapped its four-game losing streak with a win over lowly Cleveland last time out, but it jumped into a first-place tie in the AFC North in the process. Le’Veon Bell rushed for 146 yards and a score as the Steelers sent the Browns to their 11th straight loss on Sunday.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC.
LINE HISTORY: The Steelers opened as 2.5-point road favorites but news of Andrew Luck’s injury drove that line all of the way up to 8.5. That number came down slightly to 8 on Wednesday morning. The total opened at 53.5 but was also impacted by Luck’s absense and dropped to 48 on Tuesday. Check out the complete history here.
WEATHER REPORT: Dome.
Steelers – S J. Dangerfield (Questionable, groin), S S. Thomas (Questionable, groin), TE X. Grimble (Questionable, quadricep), RB D. Williams (Out, knee), WR D. Heyward-Bey (Out, foot), WR M. Bryant (Out For Season, suspension), WR M. Wheaton (I-R, shoulder) CB S. Golson (I-R, foot), DE C. Heyward (I-R, pectoral), LB S. Johnson (I-R, ankle), C C. Wallace (I-R, knee), T R. Harris (I-R, shin), G C. Manhart (I-R, undisclosed), T J. Hawkins (I-R, shoulder), C V. Ume-Ezeoke (I-R, undisclosed.
Colts – CB R. Melvin (Probable, back), DT A. Jones (Probable, knee), CB P. Robinson (Probable, groin), CB V. Davis (Questionable, ankle), S C. Geathers (Questionable, concussion), QB A. Luck (Doubtful, concussion), DE K. Langford (I-R, knee), WR Q. Bray (I-R, ankle), LB T. Cole (Questionable, back), G H. Thornton (I-R, foot), S A. Williamson (I-R, knee).
The Steelers don’t have cheerleaders, so we had to get creative for this cheerleader war.
ABOUT THE STEELERS (5-5 SU, 5-5 ATS, 3-7 O/U): Bell has been an all-purpose monster since returning from a three-game suspension to start the season, but Sunday marked the first time since Week 4 that he gained over 100 yards on the ground for the Steelers, who rank 23rd in rushing offense. Bell’s success took some of the burden off Ben Roethlisberger, who was held without a touchdown pass in a contest which surprisingly was still in doubt until Javon Hargrave recovered a fumble for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Roethlisberger threw four TD passes as Pittsburgh hammered Indianapolis 45-10 last season, another game in which the Colts played without Luck, and the Steelers – who have won the last two matchups by a combined 45 points – cautioned his counterpart not to play. “I will tell him, and this has nothing to do with football, but just to be smart,” Roethlisberger told reporters. “The brain is nothing to mess with. He is young and has a long career ahead of himself.”
ABOUT THE COLTS (5-5 SU, 5-4-1 ATS, 7-3 O/U): Clearing concussion protocol is a huge hurdle for Luck in the short week, and the fact that the Colts don’t play again until Dec. 5 against the New York Jets leaves it likely they’ll let both Luck and safety Clayton Geathers use the extra time to get well. Geathers also was placed in concussion protocol after Sunday’s game and cornerback Vontae Davis is questionable with an ankle injury, leaving the Colts’ passing defense in an ominous situation against Roethlisberger, who has thrown 10 touchdown passes in his last two games against Indianapolis. The Colts may try to lean more on a ground game led by Frank Gore (642 yards, four touchdowns), but they rank 25th in the league in rushing.
* Steelers are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games in November.
* Colts are 12-1-1 ATS in their last 14 Thursday games.
* Under is 5-1 in Steelers last 6 games overall.
* Over is 4-0 in the last 4 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The road favorite Steelers are picking 66 percent of the point spread action and the Over is getting 59 percent of the totals wagers. View full consensus data here.