Andrew Luck: Grading Colts Rookie’s Performance vs. Steelers

Andrew Luck’s first test was against the St. Louis Rams in Week 1 preseason action, but his first real test was Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers’ daunting defense.

That’s not speaking ill of Luck’s performance against the Rams—he was dazzling in a 10-for-16 display that included two touchdowns and 188 yards. His 142.7 passer rating spoke wonders about his mental acuity and rocket-powered arm.

Week 2 was a different story. Luck didn’t play as well, but, again, these are the Steelers. The wunderkind was supposed to have a tougher time.

He finished the game 16-for-25 for 175 yards and two interceptions. He didn’t throw a touchdown, but he did (barely) run one in from the one-yard line with the first half winding down.

Despite not throwing a touchdown, Luck did a very good job, considering his opponent and inexperience. Let’s break down Luck’s game piece by piece and hand out a final grade in this preseason report card.

Accuracy: B+

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Luck’s passes weren’t as crisp as this week, but that wasn’t necessarily due to his arm. Dick LeBeau was cranking out one exotic blitz after another, and Luck faced a consistent amount of pressure from the edge.

He started off slow and was 1-for-3 on his first drive. You could see him adjusting to the speed of the Steelers defense in the game’s opening moments and became more comfortable as the game moved along.

He did throw an interception to Ike Taylor on the sideline, but a lot of credit can go to LeBeau there. Not that Luck shouldn’t have recognized it, but Taylor closed that gap very quickly. His second interception landed in the hands of Cortez Allen, but that was on T.Y. Hilton for not hanging onto the ball.

Once Luck got comfortable, he threw some very nice passes. He started the game 2-for-8 but went on a 4-for-5 throwing binge on the Colts’ first scoring drive, which ended with a one-yard Donald Brown plunge.

Luck’s grade in this area started in the C to C-minus range, but he progressed gradually as the game went along to finished 16-for-25. On accuracy, 64 percent is not something to overlook.

Poise: A

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Luck could throw four picks and still appear poised (in my eyes, at least). The kid just oozes confidence, and he understands the task at hand. You could also call this category “awareness.”

He did seem rattled at times; LaMarr Woodley and the Steelers defense kept their well-oiled blitz going at full throttle, and Luck did take a few hits in the backfield. But he handled it well.

Despite a few hurdles early in the game, Luck didn’t crack. He stood tall in the pocket while staring into the teeth of one of the league’s most consistent defenses. That’s not an easy task for a 10-year NFL vet, let alone an NFL rookie.

I give Luck a lot of credit for persevering through two INTs. Whether they were his fault or not, those can be tough things for a young signal-caller to handle.  Bouncing back from the turnovers is a testament to Luck’s complete package.

The Colts didn’t just draft a golden arm. They drafted a battle-hardened brain, as well. He even understood how to run the two-minute offense, setting Adam Vinatieri up for a 53-yard field goal to close the half. What a rookie.

This is where the interceptions are going to ding Luck a bit. Taylor did close the gap quickly on his interception, but Luck’s responsibility is to recognize that. That’s why he’s the quarterback, albeit a rookie one.

On the other hand, Luck did an excellent job of recognizing other things. He knew the Steelers were going to test his ability to stay in the pocket and he was able to get out of the pocket when he needed to. He didn’t rip any big runs, but Luck’s feet certainly pass the eye test, including his short touchdown scamper.

One play that stands out to me was a first-down pass to Coby Fleener with just under six minutes to play in the second quarter. Steelers linebacker Chris Carter came unimpeded through the middle, but Luck knew he was coming. He was able to find his former Stanford teammate for an eight-yard completion with Carter bearing down on him.

It was a picture-perfect example of pre-snap diagnosis at its best. It’s things like that that separate Luck from your average, everyday NFL rookie. You could almost watch Luck begin to understand this Steelers defense as the first half rolled along. He started slow, which is understandable, but he caught on within his 30 minutes of facing one the league’s most ferocious defenses.

That can’t be overlooked, regardless of what his final line looks like.

Final Grade: A-

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