Colts not ready for prime-time

Long a darling of the NFL’s nationally televised slate, the Indianapolis Colts have done nothing to suggest they’re ready for prime-time in 2011.

With or without Peyton Manning, they’ll still have plenty of opportunities.

The offensively challenged Colts play the first of five scheduled prime-time games Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who come to Lucas Oil Stadium off their first shutout since 2008.

Most sport sports monitored by SportsOptions have the Steelers as 10 1/2-point road favorites, with the total set at 34.

Indianapolis (0-2) has been a staple on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights the past decade largely due to the presence of Manning, and that’s the case again since the severity of the four-time MVP’s neck injury wasn’t known until long after the schedule was released.

The Colts are set to make five prime-time appearances for the fifth consecutive season, a number that will likely remain considering the only option to be flexed – Week 13 at New England – figures to stay put.

Manning has twice visited Indianapolis’ practices this week, but unless he winds up taking snaps from center Jeff Saturday later this fall, the television networks may be in for some serious mismatches. For the first time since 2006, the Colts have failed to hit 200 yards passing in back-to-back games, and Kerry Collins followed his two-fumble performance in a season-opening loss at Houston with two more turnovers in Sunday’s 27-19 home loss to Cleveland.

Indianapolis is 0-2 for the first time since dropping its first four games in 1998 – Manning’s rookie season.

“We don’t have much time left,” receiver Reggie Wayne said. “We’ve got to figure it out fast. … We have to figure out a way to win the close ones. I feel like that’s what it’s going to be from here on out.”

While the Colts wound up losing by 27 points in Week 1, the Steelers (1-1) came off even worse in a 35-7 loss to archrival Baltimore that had some wondering if Pittsburgh’s defense was too old to be dominant once again.

The Steelers hardly looked washed up in their home opener. They outgained Seattle 421-164 and held the ball for nearly 39 minutes in a 24-0 win, their first shutout since December 2008.

“They have been calling this defense old since I was in college and they are still calling them old now,” linebacker LaMarr Woodley told the team’s official website. “In this sport, when is a defense at the right age? When has that ever been the case? It’s always they are too old, or too young. There is never a ‘just right’ in this league.”

Even with a turnover-free, defensively dominant performance, coach Mike Tomlin was hardly ready to pronounce Pittsburgh over its Week 1 drubbing.

“It’s not going to take one performance to take that stench off of us,” Tomlin said.

A second straight game against a struggling offense could help. The Colts have converted just 5 of 23 third-down opportunities, 31st in the NFL and a far cry from what they’ve typically done to stay on the field. From 2005-10, Indianapolis’ 49.6 percent success rate on third down was 4.3 percent better than any other team.

“That’s where you make your money,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “We have to be better in that area.”

The Steelers, meanwhile, converted 8 of 15 third downs against Seattle, but couldn’t punch in their lone attempt on fourth down. Pittsburgh failed to score on its opening drive of the game despite having four cracks after reaching the Seahawks’ 1-yard line.

“I felt like we could have scored a lot more points than we did, but we won the game and that’s what’s most important right now,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.

Roethlisberger came dangerously close to joining Manning on the sidelines Sunday. Seattle’s Raheem Brock, who got around rookie right tackle Marcus Gilbert, fell on the quarterback’s right leg late in the second quarter, but Roethlisberger returned after missing two plays.

Gilbert could have his hands full again this week against Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who each have one of the Colts’ two sacks.

Roethlisberger must hope he fares better Sunday than he has previously in the regular season against the Colts. Roethlisberger has a 58.9 passer rating and five interceptions in a pair of losses versus Indianapolis, though he did throw two touchdown passes in the Steelers’ divisional playoff victory at the RCA Dome in 2006.

Collins, meanwhile, is 3-1 as a starter against the Steelers with five touchdowns and just one interception.

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