There will be no Ben Roethlisberger-Peyton Manning IV Sunday, a juicy matchup that no doubt prompted the NFL to schedule the game in a prime-time slot. Those watching the Steelers play at the Indianapolis Colts must settle for Kerry Collins-Roethlisberger, no Roman numerals needed.
Collins was enticed out of a short retirement by the Colts because of Manning's precarious neck problems that have kept him sidelined and apparently will for quite some time. Whatever Collins provided the New York Giants, Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans (although not Oakland) and Penn State University prior to that, he has not been able to replicate in his first two games with the Colts.
But he did not sign with them until Aug. 24, less than a month ago, and Mike Tomlin not only remembers some of the things he accomplished against the Steelers as recently as one year ago but thinks it will not be long before he might start doing them again.
Collins turned a yawner under ineffective starter Vince Young into a thriller that ended in the Steelers' favor, 19-11, in the second game last season at Heinz Field. There also was that game near the end of 2008 when he picked them apart in Tennessee, for a 31-14 Titans victory.
"Obviously, when you have a change at quarterback, I am sure you lose a little bit" of continuity, Tomlin said. "But I am sure that is one of the reasons they were interested in Kerry Collins because he is a veteran football player, I am sure a quick study and I am sure that he will adjust and learn the nuances of some of the things that they have evolved to very quickly.
"That is why I am more concerned about him and them and what they are capable of than I am in terms of what I have seen on tape. Because I imagine under those circumstances he's capable of improving quickly, as are they."
Collins, who grew up in Lebanon, Pa., will turn 39 Dec. 30. He retired July 7 but was coaxed out of it by the Colts. In two games with Indianapolis, he has two touchdown passes, one interception, five sacks and a 71.4 passer rating. He has completed 50.7 percent of his passes.
Manning has had nothing less than a 91.9 passer rating in any of the past eight seasons and nothing under a 65 completion percentage.
"I am not going to try to minimize the importance of Peyton Manning for the Indianapolis Colts," Tomlin said. "I'd imagine that it is a major adjustment that they are going through. But I also think they've got great continuity and great quality players at other positions, and he is a part of the bigger picture in terms of what they have done there for a number of years."
It just so happens that these two defenses have been among the best in defending against the pass over the past five years. Indianapolis has been tops, allowing an average of just 189.9 yards passing against them since 2006. The Steelers are third at 194.5.
During that time, the Steelers defense has more sacks, 227, than any other NFL team, edging Dallas by one.
The Colts this year have allowed an average of 207 yards passing to Houston and Cleveland and have registered two sacks. The Steelers continue to be a stingy pass defense, allowing just 174 yards in two games, and they have registered six sacks.
Indianapolis' 4-3 defense features one of the best pairs of ends the Steelers will face, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
"It's a big week for a guy like Chris Carter and Jason Worilds," Tomlin said of two young linebackers. "They are going to be simulating Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney on our scout-team defense."
Several Steelers offensive linemen blamed some botched assignments in the opener on crowd noise in Baltimore and the fact they could not hear the calls at the line of scrimmage.
The Colts play at Lucas Oil Stadium, which reportedly is not as loud as the old Hoosier Dome, but loud enough.
Did the experience in Baltimore teach the Steelers anything about dealing with the crowd noise at an indoor facility?
"If we perform better initially, that will help us with crowd control," Tomlin said. "That is the focus of mine."
Tomlin confirmed that defensive end Brett Keisel has a first-degree PCL sprain in his left knee and called him questionable "at best" for the game. He said Ziggy Hood would start on the right side Sunday if Keisel cannot go.
The coach said he will have to see how three others who did not play because of their injuries respond this week: Starting cornerback Bryant McFadden (hamstring), starting left guard Chris Kemoeatu (knee) and No. 5 wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring).
Everyone else is fine, including Roethlisberger, who missed two plays against Seattle after taking a blow to his right knee.