There's no question that when the Indianapolis Colts welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers to Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday night, they'll be outmanned from a football perspective — the Steelers have one of the NFL's best defenses seemingly for the 500th straight season, and nobody knows what the Colts' offense is doing without Peyton Manning under center for the first time since 1997.
However, the Colts will get a bit of a boost in this game — while Manning's multiple neck injuries will prevent him from playing now/this year/ever again (depending on which report you're reading these days), he will be in the coaches' box, helping offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, quarterbacks coach Ron Turner, and reserve quarterback Kerry Collins with the game plan. It's also the only place doctors want him in that stadium -- they've ruled out the idea of having Manning on the sidelines, just in case he's bowled over by an errant defender.
It's an appropriate place for Manning — for years, the (primarily accurate) perception has been that Manning runs Indy's offense, so why not give him control of the offense while he's off the field?
It won't be the first time Manning's done that, either — according to the Indianapolis Star, Manning worked with the Colts' staff and Collins to prepare them for the complex and multiple blitzes the Steelers present.
"He's such a great resource," Christensen said. "Nobody knows this offense better than him. He's a genius on protections. He's a genius on game plans."
For Manning, it's a chance to not only give back to his team, but also to keep himself from wondering when he'll get back on the field. Manning is still on the Colts' active roster, but most people believe that his neck issues will keep him out for most or all of the 2011 season — and maybe, the best move for Manning's future on and off the field is to address the issue with care and wait until he's past healed.
"I get a project from them each week, the best way I can help," Manning said. "I want to be a resource. I want to help. You figure out the best way you can help and not overload Kerry with information. You give ideas."
At 35, Manning is also looking to deal with the prospect of life without football.
"I do hope to get healthy, and when I'm healthy and cleared to play, I want to be out there," Manning said to the Star. "But I'm off the clock as far as that goes. I'm just trying to follow the doctors' orders and get healthy."
"This is new to me. I try to have a good perspective, I really do."
A little coaching should help, at least in the short term.