Colts rookie Andrew Luck seems like the kind of quarterback who’s not going to let a bad pass or a bad quarter or a bad game rattle him.
But he also showed there are a few things he has to work on in the Colts’ 26-24 loss to Pittsburgh.
Luck has a degree of polish many passers do not have when they walk in the door. But he also hasn’t seen the things he will see, and that was evident in the early going against the Steelers.
His second interception was off the hands of rookie wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, and obviously not his fault. The first, however, was all him. Luck zoomed in on his receiver, didn’t drive off his back foot and it was picked off by Ike Taylor and returned for a touchdown.
It’s the kind of pass he has to avoid making, as he doesn’t have the kind of elite arm strength to get away with such mistakes. That’s not to say he’s noodle-armed. His arm is sufficient. Not great, but strong enough, and coupled with his smarts, should enable him to be quite good.
But he’s young. The mistakes will happen.
But the fact he led touchdown drives after each of the picks shows he’s got a little something about him. He was 8-of-9 for 96 yards passing after the second one. That’s amnesia, and that’s special for a kid his age.
Here are some other things we learned on Sunday Night Football.
1. The league can say whatever it wants about the quality of replacement officials.
But even if they’re able to cram the rulebook the way I did for college exams and spit it back for the short term, there are important things they aren’t proving able to do.
First and foremost is executing the player-safety function of the job.
When Colts wide receiver Austin Collie left the game in the first half after taking a shot to the head from linebacker Larry Foote, but that was the first. Cornerback Ike Taylor got him high as well. If it’s a concussion, it’s four in the last two years for Collie.
Those are the shots the real refs are now conditioned to be vigilant for, and the replacements aren’t getting it done.
2. Everyone keeps saying they expect holdout wide receiver Mike Wallace to roll in any day now.
Maybe he should hurry, because the Steelers didn’t exactly look like they missed him.
The Steelers have already given Antonio Brown a spite contract in Wallace’s absence, then started funneling the ball his way.
Brown’s 57-yard touchdown catch-and-run, on national television, is the kind of thing that could get Wallace packing a bag and heading to Pittsburgh sooner rather than later.
3. Veteran Colts wideout Reggie Wayne’s going to move around more than he ever has this year, and he can still be a dangerous weapon.
It’s just going to take some time getting used to watching him go in motion.
The Colts don’t have the kind of protection and overall talent to go toe-to-toe with teams, so they’re going to have to use personnel groups and formations to mix it up.
And if Wayne’s willing to do stuff he’s never had to do before, that’s just part of the mix.
4. Speaking of that talent: Other than Wayne, the Colts receivers aren’t much to look at. But their tight ends could be something.
In Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, they have a pair of players who could grow with Luck for years.
They’re smart to give him safe options in the passing game since he doesn’t have much on the outside.
5. Chuck Pagano’s striking the right note with this whole “Build the Monster,” thing he’s selling, passing out shirts with the slogan and the Colts at the bottom of a power ranking.
NFL teams are so evenly clumped that you can get from bad to decent in a hurry. Usually if it was bad enough for a coaching change, the holdovers are disgruntled and looking for an attitude change too. Picking a fight with anyone (media, opponent, the man) is a sure way to rally the troops.
The Colts aren’t going to the playoffs, but they could be better. Having an edge can be worth three or four wins.
6. Get well soon, Max Starks.
The Steelers need you.
Rookie left tackle Mike Adams might get ready at some point. That point is not now.
7. The Florio Research Network points out that Adam Vinatieri’s 53-yard field goal before the half was a new Heinz Field record by a yard. The old mark of 52 was held by Jeff Reed.
8. Colts backup QB Drew Stanton now has more touchdowns this preseason than Jets quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow combined.
9. Sometimes it takes lower-case L luck. The Colts had a special teams meeting in the backfield, and the game-winning field goal by the Steelers still crept across. No real explanation, and the grin on Mike Tomlin’s face said it all.