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Colts' rookie QB steels self for first road test vs Steelers

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ANDERSON, Ind. -- Andrew Luck brought his revised to-do list to work on Tuesday.

Make better protection calls. Complete more passes. Get ready for his first NFL road test at Pittsburgh.

For now, it's short and simple.

"I think you just try and get better," Luck said Tuesday when Indianapolis returned to practice. "Obviously, it was nice to go out and play a game and do some good things, do some bad things."

Bad things? Good luck finding those in Sunday's 38-3 victory over St. Louis.

All Luck did in his first NFL game was go 10 of 16 for 188 yards with two touchdowns and a 142.6 quarterback rating, leading the Colts (No. 32 in AP Pro32) to their most lopsided pre-season win since a 35-0 shellacking of Washington in 1966.

Since then, analysts and observers have spent countless hours heaping praise on the man who had been called the most NFL-ready quarterback since Peyton Manning entered the league in 1998. Luck lived up to the billing Sunday.

He was poised in the pocket, unflappable under pressure, mobile and in total command of the play calls used against the Rams.

The rave reviews aren't just coming from outsiders, either.

"I was surprised by his athletic ability and his decision-making as a rookie. His pocket presence is very good," said Colts cornerback Justin King. "We've seen he can throw and we know he's smart, but with the live bullets coming, he responded very, very well."

Nobody understands better than Luck that it was only one game, and a pre-season game at that. Rams players said they didn't give Luck many complicated looks, though they blitzed on the first play, which Luck beat with a short screen pass that Donald Brown turned into a 63-yard TD pass.

So on Monday, a day off, Luck was reviewing game tape to figure out where he can improve.

"I think I could have avoided getting hit a couple times, just seeing the pressure and throwing a lot, or changing the protection," he said. "So that's something hopefully we will get better at. And just completing more balls, you can always get better."

Two of the incompletions were throwaways. Three were drops.

Luck's real miss was one that caused him angst -- a ball he threw too high for offensive lineman Joe Reitz on a tackle-eligible play in the end zone. Afterward, Luck said jokingly that he owed Reitz about 20 steak dinners for the overthrow.

Otherwise, it was a near-perfect day.

"I know he'd like the pass to Joe Reitz back because Joe was open," coach Chuck Pagano said. "He did a great job moving around the pocket, feeling pressure. He landed on the carpet a couple of times but he was relatively clean. He had the blitz coming off the left side, spun out of that thing, there are obviously some things there that we'll look at and he'll look at."

Fortunately for Luck, he has offensive co-ordinator Bruce Arians to give him a hand. Arians helped three other highly-touted college quarterbacks make the transition to the NFL -- Manning, Tim Couch and Ben Roethlisberger.

Luck also has a veteran backup in Drew Stanton, who survived the 0-16 season in Detroit and then spent the next three seasons working with another No. 1 pick, Matthew Stafford.

Stanton's assessment: Luck's performance was no surprise to teammates, who had seen the same things from Luck in training camp.

"One of the most refreshing things about him is his honesty, saying 'I didn't see that or whatever,"' Stanton said of Luck. "Being able to change the protections or change things, he's done that very nicely."

The next big test comes Sunday night, when the Colts play on national television against one of the league's stingiest defences -- an hour away from his parents' home in West Virginia.

This week, Luck has plenty to work on. The Steelers use a 3-4 defence and rely on zone blitzes, similar to the style Luck and the Colts offence have had to contend with in practice, only this time, he'll have to do it in front of a hostile crowd waving Terrible Towels and trying to throw off his play calls.

Luck insists he'll be ready.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 15, 2012 C4

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