T.Y. Hilton, Colts

Loss of T.Y. Hilton a major concern for Colts

The Indianapolis Colts might be the NFL’s best story this season. Now they need to add another chapter about overcoming loss.

On Wednesday, star receiver T.Y. Hilton injured his calf in practice. Hilton has since been ruled out for Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh against the Steelers and head coach Frank Reich believes he’ll miss a month’s worth of action.

Without Hilton, the Colts are an entirely different offense. He already missed one game this season, and Indianapolis was handled at home by the Oakland Raiders back in Week 4. Going into Pittsburgh, the Steelers are an average 3-4 team much like Oakland, but they possess a quality front seven that will look to force quarterback Jacoby Brissett to throw early and often. Without Hilton — and fellow receiver Devin Funchess, who is still out with a broken collarbone — the Colts have problems.

Looking at the depth chart, the onus now falls on a variety of lesser-known names to pick up the proverbial slack. Zach Pascal is the next receiver in line for more targets, having notched 14 catches and 245 yards on the year. Tight ends Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle also figure to have more prominent roles in the offense. The duo has combined for 37 receptions, 442 yards and four touchdowns.

If you’re thinking those numbers are middling at best, you’re right. Brissett has done a nice job managing the offense, but he hasn’t put up huge numbers even with Hilton in the lineup. Hilton, though, changes the way defenses can play the Colts because of his elite speed. Most defensive coordinators prefer to have a pair of deep safeties, making sure he doesn’t get over the top for a huge chunk.

Without Hilton in the game, the Steelers (and future opponents) will be able to leave another man in the box. This makes life harder on both Indianapolis’ terrific offensive line and running back Marlon Mack, who has been the bellcow of the offense all year.

Luckily for Indianapolis, this remains a winnable game. The Steelers have struggled to score all year behind backup quarterback Mason Rudolph. Next week, the horrendous Miami Dolphins come to town. Afterwards, though, it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans. Being without Hilton in either of those tilts could prove the difference.

For now, the Steelers are the only opponent which matters. Indianapolis has a shot, but losing Hilton is critical both in the present and near-future for a team attempting to author an improbable story.

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